- Kaul, who has been leading the investigation of the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake, says his office is ‘transparent, open and swift.’
Wisconsin’s Indian American Attorney General Josh Kaul has been leading the investigation of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times in the back by officers while he was opening his car door on Aug. 23. In several interviews since then, Kaul has promised the people of Kenosha that his department is diligently investigating the case. Kaul is one of the few Indian Americans elected to a state-wide office. In dealing with a case that has polarized the nation, Kaul faces of a gauntlet from which he is unlikely to emerge unscathed. With the Black activists on one side and the White Supremacists on the other, Blake’s shooting by the police and vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder to two people, the Kenosha events have polarized the nation. How Kaul and the Kenosha District Attorney’s office handle the case could very well decide the trajectory of Kaul’s career.
“Over 80 witnesses have been interviewed. Over 100 pieces of evidence have been collected, and the investigation continues to move forward,” Kaul, the son of an Indian father and an American mother, told CBS This Morning. “We want to gather the evidence as fully and fairly, but also swiftly, consistent with that as possible, so that a charging decision can be made as quickly as possible.”
In an interview with PBS Wisconsin, the former federal prosecutor said that his office has been “open, transparent, and swift” in releasing details about the investigation to the public, making sure it doesn’t undermine their capability to conduct a “full and thorough” investigation.
Protests erupted in the city after the shooting, and turned deadly when Illinois teenager Kyle Rittenhouse shot two people dead. The case is being prosecuted by the Kenosha district attorney, not Kaul’s office.
Kaul also expressed his displeasure, along with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, on President Trump’s visit to Kenosha on Sept. 1. He told CBS This Morning that situation on the ground in Kenosha “had been improving significantly over the past several days,” and the president’s visit “brought more tension to that situation. There was nothing about how we can work together to address systemic racism,” he said.
Several businesses in Kenosha were damaged by rioters, including Car Source, a car dealership owned by an Indian American family. Anmol Khindri, who owns Car Source along with his father, told American Kahani that the rioters, who were from out of town, set fire to the parking lot for two consecutive nights. Photos of the Aug. 30 and 31 incident show the car lot littered with charred scraps and shattered glass, and most of the cars smashed beyond repair. Only a handful of vehicles in the lot remained unscathed.
Kaul was sworn in as Wisconsin’s 45th Attorney General on Jan. 7, 2019, a position his mother, Peg Lautenschlager, held a decade ago. He defeated incumbent Brad Schimel, a Republican.
After being endorsed by Indian American Impact Project, then executive director, Gautam Raghavan, told India Abroad that Kaul had made clear at the time that he was most comfortable with his Indian-American identity, paying tribute to his father’s immigration story—a story which is so similar to many of Indian Americans.
In that email, Kaul said: “I want to take a moment, on Father’s Day, to share some thoughts about a few people I’ll be thinking about today. One of those people is my dad, Raj Kaul. My dad was born in India, and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 13 years old in order to build a better life. In 1976, our country’s bicentennial, my dad became a U.S. citizen. Throughout his life, my dad has worked hard and tried to help others — and he’s always encouraged me to do the same,” he wrote.
Kaul grew up in Oshkosh and Fond du Lac, where he attended public schools. His father, Raj Kaul, worked for what was then known as Jerome Foods in Barron County. In high school, Kaul played fullback on the football team and first base on the baseball team. Kaul’s mom, Peg Lautenschlager, spent much of her career working as a prosecutor, and his step-dad, Bill Rippl, was a police officer.
Josh went to college at Yale, where he met his wife, Lindsey. He majored in history and economics and graduated with honors. He then attended Stanford Law School, where he served as president of the Stanford Law Review. Kaul began his legal career as a law clerk to Judge Michael Boudin, who was then the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. After his clerkship, Josh worked for Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C.
Kaul moved back to Wisconsin in 2014 after serving as a federal prosecutor in Baltimore, one of America’s most violent cities. There, he worked closely with law enforcement on complex investigations and “saw the impact that crime can have,” according to his website. He led the prosecution of a case in which three defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and he participated in the prosecution of a witness-murder case. Kaul also served as the lead prosecutor through the original indictment of members of rival gangs that were involved in murders, shootings and other crimes.
In Wisconsin, he joined the law firm Perkins Coie’s Madison office. Kaul’s practice focused on voting-rights and other election-related litigation. He tried cases challenging restrictive voting measures under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in federal courts in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. His campaign has focused on addressing the opioid epidemic, the importance of ending Wisconsin’s backlog of untested rape kits, protecting Wisconsin families from consumer fraud and polluters, and the need for an AG who is independent and a watchdog for Wisconsinites.