Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday announced it would not pursue federal civil rights charges against the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake.
The Blake family was notified of the decision by officials from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, WITI reported.
DOJ said in a press release that its investigation had obtained insufficient evidence to prove Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey willfully used excessive force against Blake.
It said federal prosecutors had reviewed evidence obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and state investigators and determined that there wasn’t reason to believe that Officer Sheskey had acted with the deliberate and specific intent to deprive Blake of his constitutional rights, WITI reported.
“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the KPD officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes,” the statement read.
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.
Officer Sheskey was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by multiple investigations and returned to active duty in April
Then the Kenosha City Council voted unanimously in June not to pay Blake’s damages claim that he had filed with the city.