Kenosha, WI – The Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake while responding to a domestic violence call in August will not be criminally charged, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced on Tuesday.
Kenosha Police Department Officer Rusten Sheskey fired seven rounds at Blake, 29, during the August 2020 incident, leaving Blake paralyzed.
Officer Sheskey’s attorney, Brendan Matthews, told CNN in September that his client believed at the time that the suspect was trying to kidnap his own children.
“This case is all about self-defense, and can it be proven that it doesn’t exist,” Graveley said on Tuesday, according to WMAQ. “It’s about the perspective of Officer Sheskey. What is his knowledge at each moment, and what does a reasonable officer do at each moment? Almost none of those things are answered by the deeply disturbing video we’ve all seen.”
Graveley further noted that Blake admitted he was armed with a “razor blade-type knife” at the time of the incident.
“Jacob Blake admits he has a knife. It’s not a cellphone. He admits it,” the district attorney said. “It’s a razor blade-type knife, and we had a DCI analyst take the shape and size to match it with the picture, and in fact it is a match. We say with confidence based on his admission, officers saying it and the video, he is clearly armed with a knife as he approaches the driver’s door.”
Blake’s family’s attorney, Ben Crump, said the family is “immensely disappointed” by Graveley’s decision, WMAQ reported.
“We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice,” Crump said in a statement. “Officer Sheskey’s actions sparked outrage and advocacy throughout the country, but the district attorney’s decision not to charge the officer who shot Jacob in the back multiple times, leaving him paralyzed, further destroys trust in our justice system.”
Crump alleged that Graveley’s decision “sends the wrong message” to law enforcement officers throughout the nation.
“It says it is OK for police to abuse their power and recklessly shoot their weapon, destroying the life of someone who was trying to protect his children,” he declared.
Blake’s family plans to continue with a civil lawsuit, WMAQ reported.
“We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time,” Crump said in the statement.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, authorized the mobilization of the Wisconsin National Guard on Jan. 4, in response to a request from local authorities over concerns of potential rioting and violent protests, NPR reported.
Approximately 500 troops were subsequently called to active duty in order to ensure local law enforcement would have assistance in the wake of the charging decision.
“We are continuing to work with our local partners in the Kenosha area to ensure they have the state support they need, just as we have in the past,” Evers noted, according to NPR.
Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and Mayor John Antaramian were also planning for the implementation of “precautionary community safety measures” ahead of the decision in efforts to protect against “unlawful activities,” NPR reported.
Closing certain roads, designating demonstration spaces, implementing a curfew, establishing protective fencing, and curbing some of the city’s bus routes were all elements being considered.
Police responded to the home of Laquisha Booker, the mother of Blake’s children, after she called 911 and had 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).
DCI said the 911 caller told the dispatcher that Blake had been her boyfriend, according to the statement.
The dispatcher advised the responding officers that there was an alert for a wanted person at that address.
Matthews, attorney for the Kenosha Professional Police Association, said that the officers knew before they arrived on the scene on Aug. 23 that Blake had an active warrant for domestic violence charges for the attack on Booker in May, the Kenosha News reported.
He 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 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.
DCI said that Officer Sheskey, Officer Vincent Arenas, and Officer Brittany Meronek responded to the home in the 2800-block of 40th Street and attempted to take Blake into custody.
Matthews said Blake resisted arrest and officers went “hands-on” with the wanted man, the Kenosha News reported.
The union attorney said Blake “forcefully fought” with officers, including putting one of them in a headlock.
Officer Sheskey deployed his Taser at the suspect but it had no effect on him, according to the DCI statement.
So, Officer Arenas deployed his Taser at Blake, too, but DCI said that also proved to be ineffective at subduing the man.
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 Arenas 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.
Matthews said that immediately following the shooting, the people involved in the incident claimed that Blake was unarmed and had been breaking up a fight between two women when he was shot, but none of that was true and led to dangerous rumors on social media.
The DCI said police found a knife at the scene.
“During the investigation following the initial incident, Mr. Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession,” the statement read. “DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons.”
At the time of the shooting, Blake was wanted on felony charges for rape and domestic abuse.