Rusten Sheskey, an officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin will not be charged for shooting Jacob Blake, District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday, January 5.
Graveley said no Kenosha police officer will be charged with any criminal offense in the Blake shooting. Graveley however, noted a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Prosecutors say Sheskey acted reasonably when he shot Blake seven times in the back on August 23 as he was entering a car with his three children in the back seat. Wisconsin law allows a person to shoot if he or she reasonably believes firing is necessary in protecting oneself.
“I want to emphasize that this case has to be laser focused on what a jury trial would like,” Graveley said. “Everybody has seen the video. From their perspective, they have tried this case from their computer screen in their living room. As a professional, I am called upon on how to try this case in a real court room.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump in a statement blasted Graveley’s decision saying, “This sends the wrong message to police officers throughout the country. 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.”
Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., wanted murder charges filed against Sheskey after he shot Blake. In his press conference, contrary to the original narrative, Graveley said Sheskey shot Blake in the back four times and three times in the side. Graveley said officers and witnesses saw Blake as he was trying to get into his car before he was shot.
During the news conference Graveley presented an enhanced video that showed a glimpse of the knife in Blake’s hand. Graveley said “It is absolutely incontrovertible that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife. All the discussion that he was unarmed contradicts what he himself has said to investigators.”
Prosecutors also said witnesses heard police officers tell Blake to drop the knife, but many couldn’t hear this on the video that had been widely circulated on social media. Prosecutors also said the seven shots were justified because police officers are trained to shoot until the threat has stopped.
Prosectuors say Sheskey decided to shoot Blake after Blake thrust a knife at Sheskey. Prosecutors also said Officer Sheskey’s decision to fire seven shots was “within a reasonable range of standard police training and conduct.”
Blake, who was left paralyzed from the shooting, is still recovering in Illinois.
Hours before the Graveley announ- ced his decision, workers erected a fence around the Kenosha County Courthouse, where protestors demonstrated many times after Sheskey shot Blake on August 23. The shooting sparked days of protests and unrest in Kenosha, located several miles across the Wisconsin-Illinois state border.
Black leaders including Reverend Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have traveled to the city along with several Chicago activists, calling for peace and justice for Blake and his family. President-elect Joe Biden traveled to the city during his campaign for the White House.
In a separate development, Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager from Antioch, Illinois who fatally shot two people and wounded a third protestor during the Jacob Blake protests in Kenosha, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to five felony charges. They include first degree intentional homicide in the death of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36; first degree reckless homicide of Anthony Huber, 26; attempted first degree intentional homicide of Gaige Grosskreutz, 22 and two counts of recklessly endangering safety, for firing shots at other protesters.
Rittenhouse is also charged with being a minor in possession of a firearm and violating a curfew that was in effect August 25. Kenosha police drew heavy criticism after they allowed Rittenhouse to walk the streets and go back home after he fatally shot two of the protesters.
On Monday, January 4, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announ- ced that about 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops were called on to assist local law enforcement in Kenosha after officials requested assistance to help ensure public safety. They along with Kenosha residents were on guard before and after Graveley announced his decision not to charge Sheskey.
“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 said in a statement. “Our members of the National Guard will be on hand to support local first responders, ensure Kenoshans are able to assemble safely, and to protect critical infrastructure as necessary.”
Evers last year drew criticism from Donald Trump and other Republicans that he did not act quickly enough to address unrest that erupted in August after Blake was shot by a Kenosha police officer.
Trump several times falsely claimed that he was the one who sent the National Guard to Kenosha, at one point tweeting, “If I didn’t INSIST on having the National Guard activate and go into Kenosha, Wisconsin, there would be no Kenosha right now. Also, there would have been great death and injury.”
Also on Monday, January 4, the Kenosha City Council unanimously approved by a 17-0 vote, an emergency declaration as it waited for Graveley to publicly announce his decision.
The resolution took effect immediately after it was announced by Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley. According to the resolution, the emergency would remain in effect for eight days. It would automatically end at 11:59 p.m. on the eighth day unless otherwise extended. Should Graveley’s ruling be delayed beyond January 16, the resolution would not go into effect.