Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced on Tuesday that the white officer who shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times in the back and left him paralyzed will not face charges. Graveley said he found that the officer, Rusten Sheskey, was acting in self-defense and justified in using deadly force. The two other officers at the scene, who have not been publicly identified, will also not face charges. “When there is enough information to raise self-defense, the burden of proof is on the state,” the district attorney said. “It’s on the prosecutor to disprove self-defense.”
The shooting occurred on the evening of Aug. 23, when Sheskey was responding to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment complex. After a confrontation in the street, the officer shot Blake at close range as he was approaching his SUV, where his three children were sitting. Officers had previously tried to tase Blake, but it was ineffective. Videos taken by bystanders appear to show Blake walking away from the officer to get into the driver’s side of the SUV. Though it is not evident from the available bystander footage, Graveley claimed that Blake admitted to investigators that he was holding a knife. The shooting severed Blake’s spinal cord, rendering him unable to walk.
“We are immensely disappointed in Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley’s decision not to charge the officers involved in this horrific shooting,” Blake’s family lawyer, Ben Crump, said in a statement to NBC News. “We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized the deployment of 500 troops from the Wisconsin National Guard on Monday in anticipation of the attorney general’s announcement. The Kenosha City Council also unanimously approved an emergency declaration “regarding potential civil unrest,” which bestows the mayor with certain powers like setting a curfew. There were multiple days of protests after Blake’s shooting in August, which followed the high-profile police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Two days after Sheskey shot Blake, then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, whose lawyers claimed that he traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin to protect local businesses, allegedly shot three people with an assault-style rifle during the protests. Two of those people died, while the third was seriously wounded. Rittenhouse entered not guilty pleas in a Kenosha court on Tuesday to charges of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional reckless homicide.