No Charges Filed Against Kenosha Police Officer Who Shot Jacob Blake in the Back
The Wisconsin police officer who shot Jacob Blake several times in front of three of his children will not face criminal charges in the shooting, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced on Tuesday afternoon.
During a news conference, Graveley said the officer would be able to successfully argue self-defense in front a jury. He said that his decision was based on evidence that could not be seen in cellphone video of the incident.
Blake, who is Black, was hospitalized on Aug. 23 after Rusten Sheskey, a white police officer at the Kenosha Police Department, shot him multiple times in the back while responding to what authorities said was a domestic disturbance. His children were in the car and witnessed the shooting.
Sheskey and two other officers at the scene, Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, were placed on administrative leave.
Blake, 29, spent six weeks in the hospital before being moved to a spinal injury rehabilitation center in Chicago. He remains paralyzed from the waist down.
Blake's shooting was captured in bystander video that went viral, sparking numerous protests over police brutality and racial injustice. Two people were killed in a Kenosha demonstration on Aug. 25 and the suspect, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, was subsequently charged with homicide.
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During Tuesday's press conference, Graveley said a jury would be required to examine the case from Officer Sheskey's point of view.
"It's really evidence about the perspective of Officer Sheskey at each moment and what would a reasonable officer do at each moment," Graveley told reporters. "Almost none of those things are answered in that deeply disturbing video that we’ve all seen. Officer Sheskey felt he was about to be stabbed."
Attorneys for Blake tell PEOPLE that they are saddened and outraged at the decision.
"We are immensely disappointed in Kenosha District Attorney Michael Gravely’s decision not to charge the officers involved in this horrific shooting," attorney Ben Crump said in a statement to PEOPLE. "We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice."
"This is not the news we were hoping for, but our work is not done and hope is not lost," Crump continued. "It is now our duty to broaden the fight for justice on behalf of Jacob and the countless other Black men and women who are victims of racial injustice and police brutality in this country. We will continue to press forward with a civil lawsuit and fight for systemic change in policing and transparency at all levels."
“We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time.”
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.