The Kenosha officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in a shooting that sparked a nationwide firestorm will not face criminal charges, the Kenosha County District Attorney announced Tuesday.
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, and other officers involved in the incident, will not be charged in the August 2020 shooting following a months-long into the incident, which was caught on camera by bystanders, according to Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley. Blake will also not face charges, Graveley added.
A federal investigation on civil rights charges remains ongoing.
“It’s very important to me that this conversation be a complicated conversation, that it be a real conversation, not a simplistic one," Graveley said in explaining the decision.
The Blake family's attorney said they were "immensely disappointed" by the decision.
“We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice," Attorney Ben 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. 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."
Graveley stressed that his decision was "Laser focused" on what would be allowed in a jury trial.
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"It means that this case is all about self-defense, and can it be proven that it doesn't exist," Graveley said. "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."
In the shooting Blake, who is Black, was shot in the back seven times after walking away from Sheskey and two other officers who were trying to arrest him. Blake was shot after he opened the driver’s side door of an SUV and leaned into the vehicle, and the shooting was captured on cell phone video.
Graveley and officials have said that Blake was armed with a knife at the time of the incident and that Blake admitted to police he had a knife, which was later recovered from his vehicle.
"Jacob Blake admits he has a knife. It’s not a cellphone. He admits it," Graveley 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."
The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down and set off days of protests and demonstrations and several nights of looting and vandalism.
Crump said the Blake family plans to continue with a civil lawsuit.
“We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time," the statement read.
The city and county have been preparing for days ahead of the highly anticipated decision, with both activists and officials calling for peace and nonviolent responses to the announcement.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian was granted emergency powers by the Kenosha City Council Monday as officials braced for expected unrest following the decision.
The mayor and the Kenosha police department have indicated that they plan to institute curfews if necessary, designate demonstration spaces, limit city bus routes, close down roads and impose other safety restrictions if need be.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also activated the state’s National Guard on Monday to provide assistance to local law enforcement in the event of unrest.
Activists have asked residents and demonstrators to avoid a repeat after the Blake decision is handed down, calling for non-violent demonstrations.
“We want everyone to come out and be as loud as they want, but we don’t want destruction of property,” activist Tanya McLean said. “We’re for non-violence. Anything else isn’t acceptable for this community.”