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Crafton Man Sentenced For Assaulting Officers, Taunting Police Horses At 2020 Black Lives Matter Protest

A demonstration in downtown Pittsburgh on May 30, 2020.
An-Li Herring
90.5 WESA
A demonstration in downtown Pittsburgh on May 30, 2020.

Raekwon Blankenship, of Crafton, was sentenced to Pennsylvania state prison Thursday for his role in a Black Lives Matter protest last summer. The 25-year-old pleaded guilty in May to assaulting officers, damaging a police car and taunting police horses at a May 2020 demonstration in downtown Pittsburgh.

Blankenship was the first person to plead guilty in state court to charges stemming from the protest. His plea also included riot and criminal mischief charges.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Flaherty sentenced Blankenship to serve between 2.5 and 5 years. Blankenship also must pay $2,100 in restitution to cover the damage to the car.

The May 30, 2020, protest ended in confrontations between protesters and police. According to a police affidavit, Blankenship was seen using a stop sign to strike mounted police and smash the windshield of a police cruiser.

It's a felony to taunt or torture a police animal because the animals are considered to be an extension of the officer, according to Colleen Shelly, who owns the Pennsylvania Academy for Animal Care and Control.

"When the animal itself is injured or assaulted in some way, this can also cause increased danger to the officer," said Shelly, a retired Pennsylvania trooper who served on the state police tactical mounted unit for a decade.

If "you have a police officer that's mounted on top of a 1,500- [or] 1,900-pound animal, [and] the animal's injured to an extent where the animal falls to the ground and could potentially fall on the officer, that is obviously a very precarious situation," Shelly said.

She noted also that "it takes a very special animal ... to be able to do that job [for police], because what we're asking them to do goes against their very nature."

Blankenship, meanwhile, also faces sentencing in federal court November 4. He pleaded guilty in that venue in June after being charged with obstructing law enforcement during the May 2020 protest.