Kenosha, WI – Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday that he will decline to file charges against Rusten Sheskey, a White police officer who shot 27-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, leaving him paralyzed. The shooting set off waves of protest in Kenosha for weeks. Sometimes protests were violent.
Blake himself was informed of the decision on charges before the public announcement, Graveley says.
Over 250 people were arrested in the protests surrounding the shooting – including 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager with an assault rifle who killed two and injured one.
Graveley said at a news conference that he “would have to disprove the clear expression of these officers that they had to fire a weapon to defend themselves.”
“I do not believe the state would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defense is not available.” He added.
“I do not believe the state would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defense is not available.“
– Michael Graveley
The shooting occurred as officers responded to a domestic dispute involving a vehicle. A woman had called 911, reporting that Blake had taken her keys, and was attempting to leave with their children.
Bystander cellphone video shows Blake walking to the driver-side door of an SUV, opening it, and leaning in as Officer Sheskey grabs his shirt, opening fire. Sheskey shot Blake 7 times in the back.
The Kenosha Police Union and attorneys for Sheskey say Blake was armed with a knife, and that he turned around and brandished it towards Sheskey before being shot. This account conflicts with what was found by state investigators.
They say that Blake had no knife in his hand at the time of the shooting, and that it was on the floorboard of the SUV. No officers involved were equipped with body cameras.
Officer Sheskey, 31, has undergone five internal investigations since joining the police force in 2013, including three reprimands for crashing his car.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice investigated the shooting due to state law that requires outside agencies to investigate all officer-involved incidents.
Following the announcement, the Wisconsin national guard has been mobilized and businesses are boarding up in preparation for civil unrest.