No Federal Charges for Cop Who Shot Black Man in Back

Kenosha shooting in August 2020 sparked deadly protests
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2021 11:08 AM CDT
No Federal Charges for Cop Who Shot Black Man in Back
This undated file photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Justice shows Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey. Federal prosecutors announced Friday that they won't file charges against a Sheskey, who shot Jacob Blake in Wisconsin last year.   (Wisconsin Department of Justice via AP, File)

In August 2020, just months after the protests that followed George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot a Black man in the back, leaving him paralyzed. That shooting, too, sparked protests, and the protests were deadly. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, was charged with shooting three people and killing two. Kenosha’s district attorney decided not to charge Rusten Sheskey, the officer who shot Blake. Michael Gravely, the DA, said video of the incident showed Blake had a knife and “felt he was about to be stabbed.”

The Justice Department decided against pursuing federal charges, too. In a statement released Friday, the DOJ said they had no evidence Sheskey “willfully used excessive force,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Video of the shooting—seven rounds into Blake’s back and side—was recorded by a neighbor. The DOJ said they couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Sheskey intended to do something illegal. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation," the statement reads. Sheskey told investigators that he was afraid Blake would fee the scene with a child in back seat of the vehicle he was getting into, CNN reports.

Jacob Blake sued Kenosha police for damages, but they rejected his claim. He also filed a federal lawsuit against Sheskey. Blake told CNN he doesn’t feel like he survived the shooting, saying it could happen again. “I have not survived until something has changed,” he said. Blake’s brother, Justin Blake, told ABC7, "If we had a heart to be broken, it would be." (Read more Jacob Blake stories.)

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