Kenosha, WI – Activists have been protesting the district attorney’s decision not to charge the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake and they are demanding that he be fired.
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.
It was during the riots in Kenosha after Blake was shot that then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two rioters and wounded a third.
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, NPR reported.
“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.
Family and friends of Blake, along with local activists, marched several times after the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office ruled that the Aug. 23, 2020 officer-involved shooting by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey was justified, The Journal Times reported.
The family of Blake have demanded that Officer Sheskey be terminated from the Kenosha Police Department.
“We’re here to let the mayor know and to let the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission know that Kenosha’s not safe with Rusten Sheskey continuing to be on the police department,” activist Erica Ness told The Journal Times “And, in addition to long-term reform — so we do not have any police officers shooting black men in the back anymore — we need him gone.”
“We’re not going to stop marching until we make sure Kenosha is safe and protected by the police officers, instead of [people] fearing for their lives,” Ness added.
Kenosha City Administrator John Morrissey said the mayor doesn’t have the authority to remove an officer from the police department, The Journal Times reported.
Morrissey said only the Police and Fire Commission, not the mayor, can terminated Officer Sheskey and they can only do it for cause.
He said no complaints have been filed with the Police and Fire Commission against any of the officers involved in the Blake shooting, The Journal Times reported.
“Normally charges are filed by the chief of the department, but [they] can be brought by the commission itself after an investigation, or ‘any aggrieved person’ who would need to identify the specific violations alleged against the officer,” Morrissey explained. “As the commission is the body who will hear the charges, their authority in bringing charges should be used carefully and as a last resort.”
“All formal charges must be in writing, and the officer is entitled to a due process hearing,” the city administrator added.
The National Guardsmen spent a week in Kenosha after the big announcement but the protests against Officer Sheskey remained small and did not become violent, the Associated Press reported.
The Wisconsin National Guard pulled its troops out of Kenosha after a week of nothing happening.
The shooting occurred 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).
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.
Brendan 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.
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.
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 that Blake had a knife.
“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.”