MADISON, WI – Federal attorneys announced Friday that they will not bring charges against a white police officer who shot Jacob Blake in Wisconsin last year – a shootout that sparked protests that resulted in the deaths of two men.
Police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Black Blake during a domestic disturbance in Kenosha in August 2020. The gunshots left Blake paralyzed from the waist down and sparked several nights of protests, some of which turned violent. An Illinois man shot dead and killed three people during one of the demonstrations.
Prosecutors decided earlier this year not to bring charges against Sheskey after a video showed that Blake, wanted on an arrest warrant, was armed with a knife.
The US Department of Justice opened its own investigation days after the shooting. The agency announced on Friday that a team of prosecutors from the Civil Law Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee had reviewed police reports, testimony, shipping logs and videos of the incident and determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Sheskey’s excessive violence applied or violated Blake’s federal law.
“Accordingly, the investigation of this incident has been completed without federal charges,” said the Justice Department in a press release.
The Blake family attorney, Ben Crump, did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment. Blake’s uncle Justin Blake, who acted as the family spokesman, also didn’t immediately respond to a message.
The Justice Department’s findings are consistent with a January finding by Kenosha County’s District Attorney Michael Graveley that Sheskey could successfully argue that he fired in self-defense.
Sheskey and other officers met Blake after answering a call from a woman who said her boyfriend should not be at her home. When they got to the scene, the woman told them that Blake had tried her kids and her SUV.
Blake fought the officers when they tried to arrest him. Sheskey and another officer tried unsuccessfully to shock him with their electric batons. Blake tried to get into the SUV with his young children in the back seat, whereupon Sheskey grabbed his shirt. Sheskey told investigators that he feared Blake would drive away with the children or use them as hostages.
Graveley said the video shows Blake turning to Sheskey with a knife and making a movement with the knife in the direction of the officer, causing Sheskey to fire.
The shooting took place three months after George Floyd’s death while white Minneapolis police were holding him back. Black Lives Matter supporters flooded downtown Kenosha for several nights, with some protesters setting fire to buildings and cars. Governor Tony Evers was forced to call the National Guard.
Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Ill., On the third night of the protests, followed a call by a local militia to protect kenosha businesses from looters and vandals. In the end he shot Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and Gaige Großkreutz, killed Rosenbaum and Huber and wounded Großkreutz in the arm. All four men involved were white.
Prosecutors have charged Rittenhouse on a number of charges, including murder. He has argued that he shot in self-defense after the three men attacked him. He’s supposed to be on trial next month.
Conservatives frustrated by the protests against Black Lives Matter have gathered around Rittenhouse. They raised $ 2 million to cover his bail. Black Lives Matter supporters have portrayed him as a trigger-happy vigilante who made things worse in Kenosha by bringing a gun to the protests.
By TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press
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