Local officials announced Tuesday that they were dropping charges against the officer who seriously wounded Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that its civil rights investigation into the incident is continuing.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are overseeing the federal investigation and “will make an independent charging decision,” according to a joint statement from Eric Dreiband, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, and Matthew Krueger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
They are working in cooperation with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation.
“Federal authorities are committed to investigating this matter as thoroughly and efficiently as possible,” they added.
Their statement came shortly after Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced his office would not seek charges against Rusten Sheskey, the officer who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times on Aug. 23. The incident left Blake, a 29-year-old father, paralyzed from the waist down.
The shooting, which was captured on video, set off massive anti-racism protests accusing Sheskey of unreasonable use of force. Counterprotesters included teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two protesters and wounded a third. Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that include intentional homicide.
Following Kenosha County’s decision not to charge Sheskey, Blake’s attorney Ben Crump said he and Blake’s family “are immensely disappointed” but will keep fighting for justice.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul reacted to the Kenosha County district attorney’s decision by reiterating the need for reforms in policing and criminal justice.
“Irrespective of the decision announced today, this case is a tragedy. An incident that unfolded in just a few minutes will have a lifelong impact on Mr. Blake, as well as others,” he said in a statement, adding, ”[T]he system we have in place — which, unlike the criminal justice systems in many others states, has not been significantly reformed in recent years — has produced staggering and unacceptable racial disparities.”