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The cop who shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake seven times in the back on Sunday, setting off days of unrest throughout the city, is Kenosha Police Department officer Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the department who has been placed on administrative leave.
Sheskey formerly worked as a police officer for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, a college in the nearby village of Somers, according to a photo posted to the Kenosha Police Department’s Facebook page. He was named for the first time in a Wisconsin Department of Justice press release on Wednesday. Sheskey and the other officers involved in Blake’s shooting have been placed on administrative leave.
In the release, the Wisconsin DOJ said that police were dispatched to the 2800 block of 40th Street in Kenosha on Sunday night “after a female caller reported that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises.” Witnesses have maintained that Blake was attempting to break up a fight; police previously characterized it as a domestic violence dispute.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice said that officers attempted to tase Blake but it didn’t work, and then as Blake walked around to his driver’s side door and “leaned forward,” Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back while holding onto his shirt.
No other officer present fired their weapons, the release claims. Kenosha police officers do not have body cameras (city leaders endorsed the use of body cameras in 2017, but they haven’t actually bought them and implemented their use, the AP reported earlier this week).
The Wisconsin Department of Justice also claimed that Blake admitted having a knife in his car, which was “recovered from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle.” The DOJ did not say whether Blake was reaching for the knife or threatening Sheskey or the other officers with it, or why the knife was relevant to the investigation.
A Facebook profile belonging to someone using the name Rusten Sheskey has been made almost completely private, but the profile picture uploaded in February 2019 is an American flag with a bright blue line running down the middle, a symbol of support for the Blue Lives Matter movement that emerged as a reaction to Black Lives Matter.
The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday that it was launching a federal civil rights investigation into Blake’s shooting. Blake, who is recovering at a Milwaukee-area hospital, underwent the first of what’s sure to be multiple surgeries earlier this week, and family attorney Ben Crump said it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again.
Protests in Kenosha on Wednesday night were smaller than Tuesday night’s, and calm, according to local reports. Following the shooting deaths of two protesters late Tuesday night, militia members who were active in the area on Tuesday were largely absent, as were police. The city’s emergency curfew was 7 p.m. last night; city officials haven’t said if there will be another one on Thursday.
Though names haven’t been released, Kenosha police identified the two victims as a 26-year-old from Silver Lake, Wisconsin and a 36-year-old from Kenosha, according to CBS News. A third person, a 36-year-old from West Allis, Wisconsin, was injured in the shooting.
On Wednesday, police arrested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, an Antioch, Illinois resident and one-time police cadet, for the Tuesday night shootings. Rittenhouse has a history of social media postings supporting cops and pro-cop movements, and the feeling appears to be mutual: a video from Tuesday night prior to the shootings shows police giving Rittenhouse water and thanking him, as VICE News previously reported.
On Wednesday, players in several sports leagues led by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, who were scheduled to play Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic, went on strike in protest of Blake’s shooting. At a Wednesday meeting among NBA teams, both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers voted to cancel the rest of the postseason, while “most” of the rest voted to play out the rest of the season, The Athletic reported.
Lakers star LeBron James, who condemned the shooting earlier this week, expressed his frustration on Twitter on Wednesday.
Cover: Facebook/Kenosha Police