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Utah Royals player from Kenosha, Wisconsin, is appalled by police shooting of Black man

(Photo courtesy of Utah Royals FC) Rookie defender Kate Del Fava looks on during a Royals match. Del Fava, is a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake was shot by police on Sunday.

Kate Del Fava recognized the street when she watched the video.

Del Fava, a rookie defender for the Utah Royals FC, grew up just 10 minutes from the 2800 block of 40th Street in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, on Sunday evening.

Video of the incident has circulated on social media and has millions of views. It shows Blake waking around a gray SUV while being closely followed by two white police officers with their guns drawn.

As Blake opened the door to the vehicle and leaned inside, one officer pulled on Blake’s white shirt and opened fire. Seven shots can be heard in the video, but it’s unclear from the footage alone how many struck him or how many officers fired.

Del Fava said the video was “extremely triggering” and “really hard to watch.” She felt confusion. Disbelief.

“Just seeing something like that happen in a place that’s so familiar to me was just heartbreaking, honestly,” Del Fava told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Del Fava played club soccer in Wisconsin before her college career at Illinois State University. She also was a highly decorated track athlete at St. Joseph Catholic Academy, which sits about 2.5 miles away from where Blake was shot.

The close proximity of Sunday’s events hit home for Del Fava, who described Kenosha as having a small-town feel despite its population of nearly 100,000 people, per the most recent U.S. Census estimations. It feels like she had friends on every street, she said.

So when she saw the video, she couldn’t help but empathize on some level.

“Even though I didn’t know the man that was shot, watching that happen in a city that’s close to my home, I felt as though I knew him,” Del Fava said. “And I felt like when I saw his family in pain, I was in pain because of it. It hurt me a lot to watch my city go though that.”

A screenshot of Utah Royals FC rookie defender Kate Del Fava's Instagram, where she posted about the shooting of Jacob Blake in her home town of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The 22-year-old defender said she’s been in contact with “outraged” family and friends in Kenosha since she learned about the shooting. For her part, she contacted the Kenosha Police Department to report police misconduct and has also signed a few petitions.

But it’s difficult for Del Fava to not physically be with her community.

“I kind of feel a little bit helpless sitting out in Utah and watching all my friends and my family and my town go through this and not being able to be there and actually do anything about it,” Del Fava said.

Del Fava said some of her friends will peacefully protest the shooting Monday. After news of the incident broke Sunday, protests erupted in the city, leading to riots, looting and fires. Wisconsin’s governor brought 125 members of the National Guard on Monday and county officials enacted an 8 p.m. curfew.

Del Fava stopped short of condoning Sunday’s violence, but seemed to understand why others felt it warranted.

“You don’t want to say it’s justified because you never want violence to come out of anything,” Del Fava said. “But arrests shouldn’t lead to murder. Ever.”

Sunday’s shooting was just one of several instances of police officers shooting — and in many cases, killing — unarmed Black people. The cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others in 2020 alone have sparked Black Lives Matter protests throughout the United States.

The National Women’s Soccer League threw its full support behind the BLM movement during the Challenge Cup in Utah, holding moments of silence before several games that saw players kneel. Many players also knelt during the national anthem.

The BLM movement has also been discussed often and at length within the Royals, who employ several women of color. Tziarra King and Gaby Vincent, both of whom are Black, attended a joint BLM and Utah Pride protest in June.

Del Fava said her Royals teammates have done a good job educating the entire team about the movement and making sure everyone was on “the ride side” of it. But the movement now has a different meaning for her now.

“I feel throughout this whole year I’ve been just learning so much and hopefully using my voice for good,” Del Fava said. “But now that it is in my hometown, I can say it can happen anywhere and it can happen to you and it can happen to people that you know.”

Del Fava said her home state of Wisconsin has a reputation of racism toward Black residents, and the Blake shooting is just one many incidents surrounding race that have occurred. The latest U.S. Census demographic estimates show Kenosha is 79.5% white and 11.5% Black.

“Hopefully now we can use this as momentum to continue to change what’s going on in my home state,” Del Fava said.

While she hopes an incident like the Blake shooting never happens again, Del Fava wants to use the incident to continue the conversation surrounding racial injustice, police brutality and the BLM movement.

“I’m glad that we’re going to realize that it’s not over and to continue talking and make sure that it’s known that Black lives are still being completely — they’re being murdered in our country,” Del Fava said. “Ruthlessly murdered.”

And although she’s a white woman, Del Fava feels she can help make a difference after what happened where she grew up.

“I need to use my white privilege to share the stories of those who have been oppressed in this country,” Del Fava said.

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