The Kenosha, Wisconsin, officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back last August will not face criminal charges, the Kenosha County District Attorney said on Jan. 5.
Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley announced at a press conference on Tuesday that his office will not bring charges against Rusten Sheskey, who fired the shots, or the two other officers who responded to the scene of the Aug. 23 incident.
“It is my decision now, that no Kenosha law enforcement officer in this case will be charged with any criminal offense, based on the facts and the laws as I will describe them to you now,” Graveley said at a press conference.
Graveley said he spoke with Blake a few minutes before the press conference to share the decision in the case. He also announced that Blake will not face any charges.
On the day of the shooting, police responded to a woman’s 911 call about a man who was at her home with her car keys attempting to leave when the man was not supposed to be at her home. Responding officers knew there was a felony arrest warrant out for Blake for a previous incident involving the same woman, who is the mother of Blake’s children.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, officers attempted to arrest Blake, and used a Taser in the process, although the attempt was unsuccessful.
“Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward,” a press release from the department read. “While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon.”
Blake was shot in front of his three children. A knife was recovered from the driver’s side floorboard of the vehicle, but no other weapons were found. Blake remains paralyzed from the waist down.
The officers were not wearing body cameras, but footage of the incident captured by witnesses was shared widely on social media.
During the two-hour press conference, Graveley used documents, video, and evidence from investigators’ interviews to explain the decision not to charge Sheskey or the other officers involved in the shooting. He said he did not feel he could prove that Sheskey did not have “privilege of self-defense” when he made the decision to shoot Blake.
According to Graveley, it was found that Sheskey believed Blake was turning toward him with a knife at the time he decided to fire his weapon. Sheskey told investigators he believed Blake was trying to kidnap a child in the back seat of the car.
“I want to emphasize that this case has to be laser-focused on what a jury trial would look 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.”
An attorney for Blake maintains that he did not pose 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 during a press conference shortly after Graveley’s announcement Tuesday.
On social media, users expressed their frustration about the decsion.
The National Guard has been mobilized in Kenosha and a state of emergency was declared in the city, both in advance of the decision.
“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,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in the statement.
Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., said the family was not surprised by the decision but they are “unhappy” about it.
“We expected it. It did not sideswipe us or jump us from the backside. We understood what was going to come when they called in the National Guard,” Blake Sr. said.
He said the family will not stop fighting for justice.