Kenosha City Council votes against compensating criminal Jacob Blake, wounded in justified police shooting

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KENOSHA, WI – In a vote held by the Kenosha City Council earlier in June, a unanimous vote has denied a claim brought forth by Jacob Blake’s representation to compensate him for his injuries sustained in the police shooting that left him paralyzed back in August of 2020.

However, this does not mean that the pursuit of monetary damages related to the August 2020 incident is over.

According to reports, the Kenosha City Council on June 21st voted 17-0 in favor of rejecting a claim that sought damages in connection with the officer-involved shooting of Blake back on August 23rd, 2020.

On March 11th, Chicago-based law firm Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. filed a claim with the city of Kenosha seeking “special damages” in the amount of $776,614.67 regarding the injuries Blake sustained during the shooting incident.

However, according to City Administrator John Morrissey, state law caps a claim at $50,000 when it is an individualized municipality named in a claim. Morrissey also pointed out that this action taken by Blake’s legal team is a mere formality that typically occurs before an actual lawsuit seeking damages is filed:

“This is just a claim. I don’t know whether they’ll file a state lawsuit. The maximum exposure for a municipality is $50,000.”

Earlier in 2021, Blake’s legal team filed a federal lawsuit that names Officer Rusten Sheskey, the officer who shot Blake in August of 2020, alleging that Officer Sheskey employed excessive force during the incident.

In January of 2021, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley declined to file criminal charges against Officer Sheskey in connection with the shooting, citing that the state wouldn’t be able to disprove that Officer Sheskey acted in self defense as Blake was armed with a knife during the shooting:

“I do not believe the state…would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defense is not available.”

Back when the federal lawsuit was filed against Officer Sheskey in March of 2021, City Administrator Morrissey noted that the city will “vigorously defend” against the civil suit brought forth against Officer Sheskey:

“The incident has been thoroughly examined by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and former City of Madison Police Chief and use-of-force expert Noble Wray. Based on their findings and independent reports, the City of Kenosha will vigorously defend this case.”

On March 31st, days after the federal lawsuit was filed against Officer Sheskey, the officer had returned from administrative leave and was not facing any disciplinary action , according to Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.

Chief Miskinis noted in a press release on April 13th that Officer Sheskey was cleared of wrongdoing at the department level and by prosecutors, which was why the decision to have him return to duty was reached:

“The Kenosha Police use of force incident on August 23, 2020 was investigated by an outside agency; has been reviewed by an independent expert as well as the Kenosha County District Attorney. Officer Sheskey was not charged with any wrongdoing.

He acted within the law and was consistent with training. This incident was also reviewed internally. Officer Sheskey was found to have been acting within policy and will not be subjected to discipline.”

The statement released by the Kenosha Police chief acknowledged that not everyone within the community would be pleased with said news, but noted that it was the only conclusion that could be reached based upon the facts of the incident:

“As of March 31, 2021, Officer Sheskey has returned from administrative leave. Although this incident has been reviewed at multiple levels, I know that some will not be pleased with the outcome; however, given the facts, the only lawful and appropriate decision was made.”

In response to the recent City Council vote against awarding damages via the filed claim with the city of Kenosha, Marcie Mangan, public relations director for Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., gave the following statement:

“The federal civil rights suit is being pursued, and the potential state claim, essentially the same cause of action with caps on damages, would be superfluous of it. We are considering options.”

The Kenosha City Council was said to have made zero comments and didn’t engage in any deliberation when voting to deny the claim filed by Blake’s legal team seeking damages. 

It’s unclear how this move by the City Council will reflect, if in any way at all, in future legal proceedings seeking monetary damages for Blake.

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Back in March, we at Law Enforcement Today reported on when the federal civil rights lawsuit was brought against Officer Sheskey, affording an in-depth look into the facts of the case and what evidence is going to be most heavily weighed if brought to trial. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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KENOSHA, WI – Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed after a police officer shot him in the back last August in Kenosha, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer who shot him due to him allegedly using excessive force.

The case, filed on March 25th in the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, names only one defendant: Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey.

Blake sustained “catastrophic, permanent injuries” as a direct result of Officer Sheskey’s conduct, according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages as well as punitive damages, attorney’s fees, as well as other compensation.

Blake’s legal team includes high-profile civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has worked with numerous families of alleged victims of police brutality and most notably assisted the Floyd family in reaching a $27 million civil settlement with the city Minneapolis.

When referencing the civil case pertaining to Blake, Crump stated:

“Nothing can undo this tragedy or take away the suffering endured by Jacob, his children, and the rest of the Blake family. But hopefully today is a significant step in achieving justice for them and holding Officer Sheskey answerable for his nearly deadly actions — actions that have deprived Jacob of his ability to walk.”

Back in January, it was determined by prosecutors that Officer Sheskey actions during the incident did not amount to a criminal act, and thus no charges were filed against the officer. Furthermore, the state had opted to not file any criminal charges against Blake either.

Currently, Officer Sheskey is still employed with the Kenosha Police Department, but he’s reportedly on administrative leave at this time.

Officer Sheskey fired seven shots at point blank range as Blake walked away from him and towards the driver’s side of a parked vehicle, according to the 19-page complaint filed with the courts.

According to the lawsuit, six of those rounds penetrated Blake’s body, with at least one severing his spinal cord and “instantly rendering his fully seated body limp upon impact.”

At the time of the incident, officers were deployed to the area for what was originally deemed as “family trouble” as Blake was leaving a party for his son’s eighth birthday following a verbal altercation between two women.

Officers had reportedly approached Blake as he was loading one of his sons into a Dodge SUV’s backseat.

Police at the time were attempting to place Blake under arrest for an outstanding warrant related to sexual assault. Months after the shooting incident, prosecutors opted to drop the charges related to the alleged sexual assault.

Just about all the facts relevant to the August incident have already been made public, and while misinformation was swirling initially after the officer-involved shooting, it was later found out that Blake was also in possession of a knife during the incident.

In fact, Blake even admitted in an interview in January that he was in possession of a knife during the incident. With that in mind, it’s without question that the topic of Blake being armed while encountering officers during the incident is going to be brought up during litigation. 

Also, while Blake’s lawsuit hones in on the aspect of the incident where Officer Sheskey discharged his firearm and shot him, a proper review of the evidence in the case is going to also require examining the numerous times Blake disobeyed lawful commands administered by police prior to the shooting.

Even if Blake’s lawsuit winds up being successful, it’s unclear what assets that the 31-year-old police officer would have access to that can be weighed into a potential favorable judgement for the plaintiff.

At the end of the day, if the lawsuit actually goes to trial (which 95% of lawsuits never do), it’s a genuine toss-up on whether Blake or Officer Sheskey is going to be named as the majority-culpability owner of the incident that resulted in Blake’s injuries. 

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