Prosecutor declines to charge officer who shot Jacob Blake

January 7, 2021

The Kenosha County District Attorney has declined to file criminal charges against the police officer who shot Jacob Blake.

Rusten Sheskey will not face charges in the shooting of Jacob Blake, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

Sheskey, a White officer, shot Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times while responding to a domestic incident on August 23, 2020. Blake survived the shooting but was left paralyzed from the waist down.

“It is my decision now that no Kenosha law enforcement officer will be charged with any criminal offense based on the facts and laws,” Graveley said Tuesday.

Tuesday’s announcement comes as anger continues to mount across the country at the repeated deaths of Black people at the hands of police. The summer of 2020 saw protests — some of which turned violent — calling for police reform and an end to police brutality, sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.

Graveley announced there will be no charges for the other two officers involved in the incident. They were identified by the Wisconsin Justice Department in September as Officers Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek.

All officers involved in Blake’s shooting are still on administrative leave, the Kenosha Police Department tweeted late Tuesday.

Blake will also not face charges, Graveley said.

Sheskey told investigators that he used deadly force during the chaotic encounter because he was afraid Blake, while attempting to flee the scene, was trying to kidnap a child in the back seat of the vehicle.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice had said Blake had a knife in his possession and the weapon was found on the floorboard of his vehicle. Blake himself told authorities he possessed a knife, Graveley said.

“Jacob Blake, while actively resisting, arms himself with a knife,” Graveley said, adding that he’s heard supporters of Blake say he was unarmed. “It’s absolutely incontrovertible that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife during this encounter. … All the discussion that he’s unarmed contradicts even what he himself has said multiple times.”

An attorney for Blake’s family disputed that Blake posed a threat.

“There was no point in the video that is articulable for an officer to say that he was under harm at that particular point. I think that’s completely bogus and I think that is just a rationalization to try to show what is really, essentially, an intentional act,” attorney B’Ivory LaMarr said in a news conference shortly after Graveley’s announcement Tuesday.

“It’s not against the law to have a knife, people have knives for a variety of different reasons. Jacob Blake is privy to having a knife.”

Graveley said he called on the US Attorney’s Office to do a parallel civil rights investigation that would be a separate investigation with its own conclusion.

Blake’s lawyers express disappointment in decision

Blake family attorney Ben Crump, along with LaMarr and co-counsel Patrick A. Salvi II, released a statement shortly after the announcement expressing their disappointment in the decision.

“We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice,” the statement read. “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.” Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., on Monday called for charges against the officer while urging Kenosha to “stand up and make some noise.”

He added, “Let’s be heard around the world. We’re not going to stop in Kenosha. We’re headed to DC. We’re headed to Nancy Pelosi’s office. We’re headed to whoever is going to be in charge of the Senate. Because this has got to be federally heard, for not just my son, but for everybody who has suffered police brutality — everyone.”

Gov. Evers: ‘I hope for peace and justice for Jacob’

Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement Tuesday saying Blake’s life has been forever changed, and that his children experienced trauma “no kid should ever endure.

“Today’s decision is further evidence that our work is not done — we must work each day in earnest toward a more just, more fair, and more equitable state and country, and to combat the racism experienced by Black Wisconsinites,” he said. “I hope for peace and justice for Jacob, his family, and the entire Kenosha community.”