Kenosha cop who shot Jacob Blake – sparking deadly protests – cleared of wrongdoing, returns to duty

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KENOSHA, WI – The white officer who shot Jacob Blake in August triggering deadly protests and riots has returned to duty with the Kenosha Police Department.

Officer Rusten Sheskey had been on administrative leave since the shooting. He had been cleared of wrongdoing by the District Attorney in January.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis issued a statement on Tuesday that the officer returned to duty March 31, after an internal review determined Sheskey was “acting within policy” and would face no discipline for the shooting.

Jacob Blake, a 29-years-old black man, was left partially paralyzed after being shot outside an apartment complex in Kenosha on August 23.

The shooting occurred after Laquisha Booker, the mother of Blake’s children, called 911 reporting Blake was not supposed to be there, and took her car keys.

Responding officers were aware that Blake had an active arrest warrant for domestic violence for an assault on Booker in May of 2020.

Blake was wanted on charges of third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct. Officer Sheskey was among officers who responded to the scene.

Officers tried to take Blake into custody when he “forcefully fought” with officers, including putting one officer in a headlock, according to police.

Two officers deployed Tasers, but Blake pulled out the probes which had no effect on him. Blake then walked around his car ignoring officers’ commands to stop. Officers were also ordering him to drop a knife police said he was holding.

Officer Sheskey and another officer followed Blake with their weapons drawn. Blake continued ignoring officers’ commands and leaned into the driver side of his vehicle while reaching for something inside. Officer Sheskey opened fire striking Blake seven times.

In January, Former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who was asked to conduct the independent investigation into the shooting, released a report in conjunction with a secondary investigative report completed by the Department of Justice.

The findings concluded that the use of force during the incident with Blake was ‘justified.”

The report was forwarded to Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Gravely, when then announced that Officer Sheskey would not face charges.

Write determined that it was clear to Officer Sheskey that allowing Blake into the vehicle, in which his young son was seated, while “armed with a knife” would be “dangerous for the public and the child.”

Wray also wrote that Officer Sheskey said he “feared that Blake was going to stab him, and he could not retreat because the child could be harmed, taken hostage, or abducted by Blake. For these reasons, he fired his firearm towards Jacob Blake.”

The report said that officers observed Blake drop the knife after being shot, and immediately rendered medical assistance.

Regarding the number of shots fired, Wray said that officers were trained to continue shooting until the threat ends:

“The officer was pulling on the shirt of Blake and took just over 2.5 seconds to fire seven rounds. I found that they applied the correct force option to each situation to mitigate threat and stop the active resistance on the part of Blake.

“I found that the amount of force used by P.O. Sheskey was within the acceptable range. It is my opinion … that the use of force by P.O. Sheskey during his encounter with Jacob Blake on August 23, 2020 was justified.”

The shooting was captured by a neighbor in a video that circulated widely and rapidly on social media. The video sparked outrage from black rights advocates, and contributed to what has come to be known as the “summer of protests.”

Officer Sheskey’s return to duty is expected to result in some anger in the community, and Chief Miskinis acknowledged as much:

“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.”

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Cities brace for protests as DA announces no criminal charges against officers in the shooting of Jacob Blake

January 5, 2021

 

 KENOSHA, WI – Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley has announced that no charges will be brought against the police officer who shot Jacob Blake outside an apartment building in August. The shooting became a flashpoint for protests.

In a press release Tuesday afternoon, Graveley called for peace as he announced that police officer Rusten Sheskey will not be criminally charged in the case. He said that Sheskey could make a legal defense of self-defense for the shooting. Graveley said:

“It’s a narrow task today, it’s a legal and professional task. If you don’t believe you can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, you have an ethical obligation not to issue charges.

Two other officers involved in the incident, Brittany Meronek and Vincent Arenas, will also not face charges.

Graveley, using a slideshow as he gave a detailed account of why the decision not to charge the officers, said that the existence of the arrest warrant was a major factor in the case:

“Officer Sheskey and these other officers do not have discretion on something like a felony assault warrant like this. When they come across Jacob Blake, they must attempt to arrest him.

They don’t have other options. They can’t say, ‘This guy is going fight with me, I’m not going to arrest him.’ There is no discretion in this regard.”

Graveley said there was “clearly” resistance to the officer’s attempt to arrest Blake, and he did think the resistance was clear in the videos. He said Blake failed to obey officers’ commands and officers attempted several methods to gain control of Blake.

Gravely said officers directed Blake to the ground and multiple officers grabbed his arms trying to secure him. Graveley said Blake admitted he struggled with officers:

“He (Blake) admits that at one point, ‘Officers were trying to handcuff me, but I was able to get up.’”

Calling it an important factor, Graveley said that the investigation showed that Blake was tased three times before the shooting and that the tasers appeared to have little effect.

Graveley then points out that Blake armed himself with a knife, which he called the “most important factor in the investigation:

“I continue to hear, I think I heard it at the rally last night, the vigil, where someone again said that he was unarmed.

“It is absolutely incontrovertible that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife during this encounter.

“He arms himself with a knife and refuses to drop that knife.”

Graveley shared an enhanced video showing that at one point during the struggle, Blake was on top of Officer Sheskey.

Sheskey responded to a report of “family trouble” at 5:11 p.m. on August 23. A woman called police reporting that her boyfriend, who was not supposed to be near her, took her keys and was refusing to return them. Dispatchers had warned officers that Blake had an arrest warrant for a domestic case in May.

Video captured by bystanders shows three officers with guns drawn following behind Blake as he walks from the sidewalk to the front of an SUV.  Two of the officers followed closely behind Blake with their guns drawn as he opened the driver’s side door.  

Police later said Blake was brandishing a knife and threatened to get a gun from the vehicle. Neither was clearly displayed in the video of the incident but was later confirmed during the investigation.

The District Attorney’s Office has requested a civil rights investigation into the incident by the Department of Justice.

As Blake reaches into the vehicle, Sheskey grabs Blake’s shirt and shoots him in the back at close range. Seven shots could be heard on the video. After the shooting, the video shows police giving medical attention to Blake on the ground.

Blake survived the shooting but was left paralyzed.

The shooting turned a nation’s attention on Wisconsin just months after the killing of another black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests and violence. More than 250 people were arrested in the days following Blake’s shooting.

 

 

 

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