Kenosha, WI – The Kenosha City Council voted 17-0 on Monday night to reject a $50,000 damages claim by 29-year-old Jacob Blake for his officer-involved shooting in August of 2020.
A claim filed by Blake’s Chicago-based legal team at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. on March 11 sought to recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and “pain and suffering and disfigurement,” the Kenosha News reported.
Attorneys also submitted an itemization of “special damages” totaling $776,614.67, but Wisconsin state law caps the claim at $50,000.
Kenosha City Administrator John Morrissey said the claim was filed as a formality so that Blake could proceed to sue the city in court for the state’s limit, the Associated Press reported.
Blake also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in March against Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey that alleged excessive force.
The shooting was ruled justified and Officer Sheskey was returned to duty without discipline in April.
Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said the decision to return Officer Sheskey to duty was made following an outside investigation and an independent expert review of the officer-involved shooting, CBS News reported.
The shooting occurred on Aug. 23, 2020 after Laquisha Booker, the mother of Blake’s children, called 911 and told them Blake “isn’t supposed to be there and he took the complainant’s keys and is refusing to give them back,” according to a statement from the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).
Brendan Matthews, attorney for the Kenosha Professional Police Association, said that the officers knew before they arrived on the scene that Blake had an active warrant for domestic violence charges for an attack on Booker in May of 2020, the Kenosha News reported.
At the time of the shooting, Blake was wanted on charges of third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse that occurred at the same address, according to Newsweek.
The police union’s attorney explained that the Kenosha officers were required to take Blake into custody regardless of what was happening at the new scene they responded to because he already had the outstanding warrants, according to the Kenosha News.
But when officers tried to take the suspect into custody, Matthews said Blake “forcefully fought” with officers, including putting one of them in a headlock.
Two of the officers deployed Tasers at Blake but they didn’t have any effect on him.
Former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who conducted an independent investigation, said that Officer Sheskey noted in the police report that Blake pulled the wires from the Taser probes, writing that “he had never seen anyone do that before,” WTMJ reported.
Blake walked around his car and ignored officers’ commands to stop and “drop the knife,” according to witness reports.
Cell phone video of the incident posted to social media showed Officers Sheskey and another officer following closely behind Blake with their weapons drawn as the suspect dashed to the driver’s door of his SUV.
The video showed Blake continued to ignore officers’ commands to stop, and leaned into his vehicle as if reaching for something.
Officer Sheskey, who was right behind Blake, opened fire on the suspect and shot him seven times, according to the DCI statement.
Blake later admitted that he had a knife.
“In my view, Blake’s proximity to the officers put him in a position of being capable of causing harm,” Wray wrote in his independent evaluation of the officer-involved shooting, WTMJ reported.
Instead, Wray said “Blake could have decided to ask the officers the status of the investigation when they arrived,” or “could have allowed officers to pat him down for weapons, or he could have informed the officers that he had a knife.”
The former Madison police chief also noted that “Blake could have complied with P.O. Sheskey’s intent to take him into custody” which would have avoided everything that happened afterwards including the shooting, WTMJ reported.
Wray explained in his report that police officers have been trained to shoot “until the perceived threat is stopped” and said it took between 0.7 and 1.5 seconds for an officer to perceive a threat has ended and to stop shooting.
“The officer was pulling on the shirt of Blake and took just over 2.5 seconds to fire seven rounds,” he wrote in the report. “I found that they applied the correct force option to each situation to mitigate threat and stop the active resistance on the part of Blake.”
“I found that the amount of force used by P.O. Sheskey was within the acceptable range,” Wray concluded, according to WTMJ.