Kenosha County, Wisconsin District Attorney Mike Graveley said he cannot prove the officers were not acting in self-defense when Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake in August. CBS 2’s Chris Tye reports.
A Wisconsin prosecutor, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley, announced in a news conference, Tuesday, January 5, 2021 that no criminal charges will be filed against police officer Rusten Sheskey, age 31, who shot Jacob Blake, as he reached into his car and defied orders to stop advancing toward the driver’s seat in Kenosha last summer on August 23, 2020. The police-involved shooting brought immediate protests.
Graveley said Rusten Sheskey, could successfully argue self-defense before a jury, Graveley said during a Tuesday news conference. A jury would be required to examine the evidence from the officer’s point of view, according to Graveley. It is “incontrovertible” that Blake was armed with a knife when he was shot, said Graveley, who described the weapon as a “razor blade-type knife” and said Blake admitted possessing the weapon.
Prosecutors had dropped a sexual assault charge against Jacob Blake in November 2020 as part of deal in which he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct. Blake was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Graveley also said that the shooting was a tragedy for Blake, his family, police and the community.
Jacob Blake’s attorneys responded, saying Graveley’s failure to charge Sheskey was subverting the will of the people.
“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. 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.”
— Attorney Ben Crump and co-counsels Patrick A. Salvi II and B’Ivory LaMarr
Jacob Blake was paralyzed from about the waist down by the gunshot wounds, which also damaged his stomach, a kidney, his liver and small intestines and large intestines. Much of his intestines were surgically removed. Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley informed Jacob Blake of the news about the charges before holding the news conference that announced the decision.
Prosecutor: Can't bring charges to send a message about misuse of force by police, to advance cause of racial equity, or because the Blake family needs healing – because while all are noble causes, they cannot legally be used as grounds to bring charges. https://t.co/QKWCcpXtAi
— 360MediaX (@360mediaX) January 6, 2021
— CNN (@CNN) January 5, 2021
The criminal legal system, from police to prosecutors, is functioning exactly how it was designed — to oppress and harm Black people.
Real justice would have been Jacob Blake never being shot in the first place. https://t.co/fDqOYAGP37
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 5, 2021
No Kenosha officers to face charges in Jacob Blake shooting, prosecutors say https://t.co/5sYNwpwkCt
— 360MediaX (@360mediaX) January 5, 2021
Sheskey was among other police officers that responded to a woman’s call for help, notifying 9-1-1 that her boyfriend, who had an restraining order, was nearby at her residence. Cellphone video shows Blake walking around the SUV from the passenger side to the driver-side door of the SUV as officers follow him with guns drawn, shouting for him to stop. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, Sheskey grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire.
The Kenosha police union said Blake was armed with a knife, and Sheskey ordered him several times to drop it but he would not. Sheskey’s attorney, Brendan Matthews, said Sheskey fired the shots because Blake started turning toward the officer while holding a knife. Cellphone video that captured the incident appeared to show that Blake could be reaching for something in the SUV as police were telling him to stop. The Kenosha police officers were not equipped with body cameras.
As Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake in the back, the bystander cellphone video captured the new police-involved incident in an environment that was already tense from the death of George Floyd while in police custody on a street in Minnesota. The Blake shooting happened three months after George Floyd’s death, which occurred while Floyd was being restrained by police officers in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death was captured on bystander cellphone video and caused outrage and protests around the world and especially in United States cities that lasted during the Summer and Fall of 2020.
In Kenosha, more than 250 people were arrested in days of rioting that followed the Jacob Blake shooting. Two males who had attacked or advanced toward an armed 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, were killed by rifle shots that Rittenhouse and his lawyers say were self-defense actions in a dangerous mob situation surrounded by enraged arsonists and armed rioters. A third male armed with a handgun, who advanced toward Rittenhouse, was seriously wounded when Rittenhouse shot him in the elbow and upper arm. The third male shot was not killed, but almost lost his arm.
Prior to the no charges announcement, citizens and government agencies in Kenosha, pop. 100,000, just north of Chicagoland, was prepared for new protests and/or rioting. The Kenosha government warned of transportation disruptions, and prepared areas with concrete barricades, metal fencing and boarded up windows. The area near the Kenosha County Courthouse was especially secured. The Kenosha Common Council on Monday night, January 4, 2021 unanimously approved an emergency resolution giving Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian the power to impose curfews and road closures, etc. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers activated 500 National Guard troops to assist, and area public safety personnel were prepared for assignments.
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BREAKING: Kenosha County, Wisconsin, district attorney will not be charging any of the law enforcement officers involved in the August 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed in the shooting. https://t.co/qP9PkGdcjJ pic.twitter.com/7HdrQRLXFL
— ABC News (@ABC) January 5, 2021
BREAKING: No charges for officer who shot Jacob Blake
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 5, 2021
Police officers won't be charged in shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man who was shot 7 times in the back in Kenosha, Wis. https://t.co/WN2HJf4zTM
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 5, 2021
— The Hill (@thehill) January 5, 2021
— New York Post (@nypost) January 5, 2021