Rusten Sheskey, the police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times in August, paralyzing him from the waist down and sparking protests, will not face charges for the incident, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday.
“No Kenosha law enforcement officer in this case will be charged with any criminal offense,” Graveley said, emphasizing the role self-defense statutes played in his decision.
Graveley added that Blake will also not face charges for his role in the “tragedy.”
Following the announcement Tuesday, Blake’s attorney Ben Crump said he and Blake’s family “are immensely disappointed” and pledged to keep fighting.
“We will continue to press forward with our own investigation and fight for systemic change in policing and transparency at all levels,” he said. “We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time.”
The city of Kenosha braced for what may be a riotous few days following the decision. On Monday, the city council voted unanimously in favor of Mayor John Antaramian’s emergency declaration “regarding potential civil unrest,” granting him emergency powers for eight days.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) mobilized the state’s National Guard on Monday, which has dispatched 500 troops to assist local law enforcement.
Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., speculated Monday that the addition of troops signaled Sheskey wouldn’t be charged.
“What is the National Guard for?” he wondered aloud before leading a march through the city Monday. “They going to deliver mail? Deliver ice cream? What do you think they’re here for?”
Kenosha police were responding to a “reported domestic incident” on Aug. 23 when Sheskey, who is white, fired seven rounds at the 29-year-old Blake, who is Black, as he opened and leaned inside the driver’s side door of a parked SUV.
Video of the incident shows three officers yelling about a knife prior to the gunfire, but 22-year-old Raysean White, who filmed the video, told The Associated Press he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s possession. One was later found on the driver-side floorboard of the SUV.
Blake’s three children were in the back seat of the vehicle when Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the force, opened fire.
Brendan Matthews, who is representing Sheskey and the Kenosha police union, told CNN that the officer believed Blake was trying to kidnap one of the children when he used deadly force. Two earlier attempts by police to subdue Blake with a Taser failed.
The Aug. 23 shooting, captured on video, sparked mass protests in Kenosha, with police firing tear gas at protesters, some of whom threw bottles, shot fireworks and lit fires. The nation had been reeling all summer amid sometimes-violent demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, another Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25.
Kenosha was flooded with armed vigilantes, many from out of state. Some were responding to a Facebook event with a racist call for “patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city from the evil thugs.”