Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said no charges would be filed against Rusten Sheskey, the white police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a black man, seven times, paralyzing him from the waist down.
Graveley announced the decision during a press conference Tuesday, January 5th, saying he’d informed Blake and his family of the decision prior to his address. “No Kenosha law enforcement officer in this case will be charged with any criminal offense based on the facts and the laws,” Graveley said. He added that no charges would be filed against Blake either.
BREAKING: Kenosha County, Wisconsin, district attorney will not be charging any of the law enforcement officers involved in the August 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed in the shooting. https://t.co/KOYuIX9oUF pic.twitter.com/rtWOqNVW0q
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) January 5, 2021
Per The New York Times, Graveley called the decision a difficult one, saying, “I feel in many ways completely inadequate for this moment. I have never in my life had a moment where I’ve had to contend with explicit or implicit bias based on my race. I have never had a moment in my life where I’ve had to fear for my safety either with police officers or people in authority.”
Benjamin Crump, a Civil Rights attorney representing Blake, wrote on Twitter, “We are immensely disappointed and feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice. This isn’t the news we hoped for, but our work is not done and hope is not lost. We must broaden the fight for justice on behalf of Jacob Blake and the countless other Black victims of racial injustice and police brutality. We will continue to press forward with our own investigation and fight for systemic change in policing and transparency at all levels. We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time.”
Graveley’s office did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Blake was shot August 23rd, 2020 after police responded to a domestic violence dispute. Blake was reportedly trying to break up a fight between two women, and when police tried to detain him he avoided them and walked towards his vehicle, where his three young children were. Police tried to fire a taser at Blake, but after that didn’t work, Sheskey grabbed him by the shirt and fired his gun into Blake’s back. Blake later admitted that he was in possession of a knife, and a knife was recovered from the floor of his car near the driver’s seat.
The police shooting of Blake sparked several nights of protests and unrest in Kenosha, which reached a fever pitch when then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse shot three protesters, killing two and wounding one. Rittenhouse — who, along with several other people, claimed they were on-hand to provide additional protection for people and property — has claimed he was acting in self-defense. Just hours before Graveley’s press conference, he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In anticipation of Graveley’s decision and the possible protests that could follow, Milwaukee governor Tony Evers authorized the mobilization of the state’s National Guard Tuesday as well. During his press conference, Graveley made a plea for peace saying, “Rather than burning things down, can moments of tragedy like this be an opportunity to build things?”