Kenosha Police Officer Avoids Charges in Blake Shooting

The Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back and side seven times won’t face criminal charges, District Attorney Michael Graveley said.

Prosecutors would have insufficient admissible evidence to secure a guilty verdict against Kenosha officer Rusten Sheskey, Graveley said at a Tuesday news conference. Instead, an investigation showed the shooting occurred during a suspected domestic-abuse scene and involved a man who at first resisted arrest and then tried to stab an officer, Graveley said.

“If you do not have a case you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt as you’re going to hear me talk about, then you’re ethically obligated not to charge such a case,” Graveley said. “The question to a jury would be did Officer Sheskey reasonably believe that the shooting at Jacob Blake was necessary to prevent being stabbed by him or necessary to prevent someone else from being in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”

Sheskey repeatedly shot Blake on Aug. 23 as Blake tried to enter a vehicle with his children inside, after unsuccessful attempts to arrest him, according to a report released Tuesday by Graveley’s office. Police had been called to the scene by a woman who reported that Blake, whom she referred to as her boyfriend, wasn’t permitted at her residence. Blake was the subject of a felony sexual-assault warrant at the time of the shooting, Graveley said.

Federal prosecutors said their separate civil-rights investigation of the Blake shooting is continuing.

According to Graveley, Sheskey arrived at the scene knowing about the warrant for Blake’s arrest and encountered a situation with all the signs of a domestic-abuse case. He and another officer tried several times to restrain and arrest Blake, including firing a Tazer at him three times, Graveley said. Blake admitted he resisted arrest, the district attorney said.

Bullets Left

Sheskey only fired his gun when Blake, “armed with a knife,” tried to stab the officer, Graveley said. Sheskey stopped firing when the threat against him stopped, Graveley said, noting that the officer still had 10 bullets in his gun.

Benjamin Crump, a Blake lawyer, said the incident left his client paralyzed.

Demonstrations and unrest followed the shooting, leading to clashes with police in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The incident was one spark for a series of summer protests across the U.S. decrying violence by police officers against minorities. Sheskey is White, while Blake is Black.

During one protest after Blake’s shooting, teenager Kyle Rittenhouse allegedly shot and killed two individuals and injured a third person. He was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and pleaded not guilty at a Kenosha court hearing on Tuesday.

The district attorney’s decision not to charge the officer comes four months after Kentucky’s attorney general announced he was not seeking murder charges against any of the officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her own apartment by policemen who broke down her door while serving a warrant.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, on Monday activated about 500 National Guard soldiers and airmen in an effort to ensure public safety as the Kenosha County district attorney’s decision was announced.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.