Officer In Jacob Blake Shooting Avoids Charges
Prosecutors in Kenosha County, Wis., have announced they will not charge Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey in the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake. Video of the shooting, which occurred in front of Blake’s children, touched off weeks of protest around the country.
“No Kenosha law enforcement officer in this case will be charged with any criminal offense, based on the statute,” announced Kenosha County District Attorney Mike Graveley at a Tuesday (Jan. 5) press conference. “No charge will be filed against Rusten Shesky in regards to this incident as well.”
He expounded further: “It’s a narrow task today, it’s a legal and professional task,” he said. “If you don’t believe you can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, you have an ethical obligation not to issue charges.”
In a statement relased not long after Graveley’s announcement, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Blake’s co-counsels Patrick A. Salvi II and B’Ivory LaMarr blasted the decision.
“We are immensely disappointed in Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley’s decision not to charge the officers involved in this horrific shooting. We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice.
“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,” the statement continues. “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.”
The decision comes as Blake’s family and community have awaited a decision while demanding justice for him.
A viral video taken the day of the shooting shows Blake walking towards his vehicle as officers had their guns drawn on him. As soon as he entered the car, one of the officers began shooting him in front of his three sons. He was struck in the back seven times. He survived, but was paralyzed from the waist down.
Blake had reportedly been attempting to break up a fight between two women when officers were called to the scene. His lawyers maintain that he was unarmed, but Gravely said the investigation pointed out that he had a knife and disobeyed commands to drop it.
Blake, 29, suffered severe injuries to his arm, kidney, liver and spinal cord and was hospitalized until last October. “He had a bullet go through some or all of his spinal cord, at least one bullet. He has holes in his stomach,” Patrick Salvi Jr., one of his attorneys, said at a press conference last August, according to CNN. “He had to have nearly his entire colon and small intestines removed.”
The shooting came during a summer in which global demonstrations had already taken place over the shootings of unarmed Black people by police. Cases like that of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. by racist vigilantes, created months of social unrest and demands for criminal justice reform.
Those protests also came to Kenosha when news of Blake’s shooting spread, although his family called for peaceful demonstrations. Two days after Blake was wounded, protests turned tragic when two people, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26 were shot and killed. Gaige Grosskreutz was also injured. Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, was arrested at his home in Antioch, Ill., and charged with five felonies including first degree murder. He was released after posting $2 million bail.
In an arraignment taking place Jan. 5, he pleaded not guilty to homiocide charges, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
In anticipation of the prosecutor’s announcement, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has mobilized 550 members of the National Guard. Temporary fencing has been placed around government buildings, according to Milwaukee TV station WISN. “We are continuing to work with our local partners in the Kenosha area to ensure they have the state support they need, just as we have in the past,” Evers told reporters. “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.”
Meanwhile Blake’s family and supporters have continued to call for peaceful protests. “No matter what the decision is, we are for non-violence. We want people to come out, make as much noise as you want, but we don’t want any destruction of property, businesses, we don’t want anyone harmed,” local activist Tanya McLean told WISN.
Some of Blake’s family members were dissatisfied with the preemptive move and publicly blasted officials linked to the case. “You think about it. Think about how it looks,” said Blake’s father, Jacob Sr. said, according to WISN. “What is the National Guard for? They going to deliver mail? They got ice cream cones? What do you think they’re here for? We’re ready. We’re ready.”
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