The cop who shot Jacob Blake last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will not face criminal charges, a local county district attorney said Tuesday.
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back on Aug. 23, paralyzing him from the waist down. The shooting, which happened as Blake was reaching into a vehicle, was captured on viral cell phone video, and spurred protests across the lakeside city of 100,000.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said Tuesday that Sheskey could argue in court that he acted out of self defense, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Graveley said Blake was armed with a “razor-blade type knife” at the time he was shot, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Attorneys for Blake’s family, including civil rights attorney Ben Crump, said in a statement Tuesday that they were “immensely disappointed” with the district attorney’s decision, which was expected to spark more demonstrations.
“Officer Sheskey’s actions sparked outrage and advocacy throughout the country, but the District Attorney’s decision not to charge the officer who shot Jacob in the back multiple times, leaving him paralyzed, further destroys trust in our justice system,” the attorneys said in a statement. “This sends the wrong message to police officers throughout the country. It says it is OK for police to abuse their power and recklessly shoot their weapon, destroying the life of someone who was trying to protect his children.”
Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., had said he’d take his son’s case to the federal level if local officials didn’t press charges, according to the Washington Post. Blake’s three children were in the car when he was shot, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Police were responding to a domestic violence call when they encountered Blake. Witnesses have said that Blake was trying to break up a fight at the time, according to the Washington Post.
Kenosha officials announced Sunday that the city would designate a “demonstration space,” limit bus routes, close roads, implement a curfew, and install “protective fencing” in anticipation of the decision whether or not to charge Sheskey.
During the days of protest following Blake’s shooting, Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager from Illinois, was arrested in connection with the killings of two Black Lives Matter protesters on Aug. 26. Rittenhouse said he traveled to Kenosha to “protect people” during the protests, and was subsequently charged with first-degree intentional homicide. His case attracted the services of high-profile pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood, who is no longer representing him, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. On the same day that authorities announced there would be no criminal charges brought against Sheskey, Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty in a Kenosha courtroom.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized deployment of 500 members of the state National Guard on Monday to help “ensure public safety.”
“Our members of the National Guard will be on hand to support local first responders, ensure Kenoshans are able to assemble safely, and to protect critical infrastructure as necessary,” he wrote in a statement.