KENOSHA, Wis. — A Black man, who was paralyzed in a controversial officer-involved shooting last summer, filed a federal lawsuit against the officer who shot him in the Eastern District Court of Wisconsin on Thursday.
Jacob Blake Jr, who was shot by officer Rusten Sheskey of the Kenosha Police Department as he leaned into his SUV following a scuffle with officers, seeks unspecified damages for a violation of his civil rights, according to court documents obtained by ethanb822.com.
Blake’s shooting made national headlines after bystander video of the police encounter went viral online just three months after the killing of George Floyd, also a Black man. Similarly to Floyd’s death in police custody, the shooting of Blake inspired widespread protests, some of which turned violent. A now-18-year-old man, Kyle Rittenhouse, is facing homicide charges in the shooting death of two protesters and the wounding of a third in relation to unrest over Blake’s shooting.
On August 23, 2020, Sheskey and two other Kenosha officers attempted to arrest Blake on an outstanding warrant for third-degree sexual assault – a charge that was later dropped. The mother of Blake’s children, Laquisha Booker, called 911 saying Blake had taken the keys to a rental car in her name. The officers responded to a “family trouble” call.
Blake told GMA’s Michael Strahan that he “hadn’t done anything” and didn’t think the officers on scene were there for him. Blake says he attempted to pull away from someone who grabbed his arm, now known to be a law enforcement official, who slammed him up against his SUV.
A struggle followed, in which officers say Blake reached for a weapon multiple times – an allegation he denies. Officers discharged a taser at Blake several times, however, he pulled the prongs out of his skin. Officer Sheskey and Blake ended up in a physical altercation on the ground, with Blake being put in a headlock at one point.
Blake says he accidentally dropped a pocketknife in the struggle after getting off of Sheskey. The 29-year-old father of three told Good Morning America he picked the knife up intending to put it in his car, where he planned to surrender. Blake says he didn’t believe officers would shoot him, however, now admits he shouldn’t have picked the knife up.
“At that time I wasn’t thinking clearly.” Blake said, adding he was going to throw himself to the ground and put his arms behind his back after leaving the knife in the car.
Sheskey told investigators Blake turned around near the car door, driving the knife towards his body and causing the seven-year department veteran to fear for his life and open fire. Sheskey fired seven shots in total, all of them striking Blake’s back and side.
Officer Sheskey’s attorney in the criminal investigation, Brendan Matthews, said Blake “was given every opportunity to comply,” and “chose not to.” He says his client acted accordingly to Kenosha Police Department training. A Wisconsin prosecutor declined to file charges against either party in the matter in January, stating he couldn’t disprove Sheskey’s statement of a belief of imminent danger from Blake.
An 18-page complaint filed by Patrick Salvi, Blake’s attorney, says Sheskey put Blake’s children in “imminent danger” from being hit by stray bullets as he shot at Blake. The lawsuit goes on to claim Sheskey’s actions were “undertaken with malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference to the rights” of Jacob Blake.
Court documents do not currently list an attorney for Sheskey. It’s unknown whether Brendan Matthews will be representing him in the civil proceeding.