Jacob Blake, a Black man living in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was severely injured in August 2020 after a police officer shot him at least seven times, leaving him paralysed. While months of Black Lives Matter protests honouring Blake and others waged on last year, a case was built against Rusten Sheskey, the white police officer who shot him. Today, the decision was released.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon where he announced that Sheskey will not face charges for shooting Blake. During the conference, Graveley said a "dramatically exhaustive" investigation into the shooting of Blake took place before making this decision. "No charge will be filed based on the facts and the laws. No charge will be filed against Jacob Blake in regards to this incident as well," said Graveley, who added that he refrained from speaking to Blake or any officers involved in the case so he could remain unbiased. In addition, he said that a lengthy written report on the investigation will be released to the public today.
Ahead of the press conference, Governor Tony Evers mobilised the state's National Guard, anticipating civil unrest. And if the scene of protests following Blake’s shooting on 23rd August are any indication, there will certainly be unrest. Earlier today, about 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops were called to active duty to assist the police in the event of protest. "Our members of the National Guard will be on hand to support local first responders, ensure Kenoshans are able to assemble safely, and to protect critical infrastructure as necessary," Evers said.
The activation of the troops also comes following Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and police Chief Daniel Miskinis announcing "precautionary community safety measures" designed to protect the public and protesters against "unlawful activity."
A video of the incident from August showed Sheskey shooting at Blake next to his own car. At the time, he was unarmed and three of his children were sitting in the back of the vehicle. The police officer who shot him fired at least 7 times. The encounter was caught on mobile phone video and posted online where it quickly went viral and sparked outrage during a time when many were already reeling from constant Black death and protesting police violence.
"Officer Sheskey fired seven shots into an unarmed man's back, on a block where our children walk to school and our families go to church," said Tanya McLean, executive director of Leaders of Kenosha, which has repeatedly called for Sheskey to be charged. "All of us — Black, white, brown, native and newcomer — deserve to be safe in our own neighbourhoods, and that means holding police officers accountable when they brutalise us.”