Attorneys for the family of Jacob Blake said they are "immensely disappointed" at the Kenosha County district attorney's decision not to charge any officers involved in the controversial shooting that took place last summer, but continued to push for a peaceful response to the decision.
“We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice," Attorney Ben Crump said in a statement. “Officer Sheskey’s actions sparked outrage and advocacy throughout the country, but the district attorney’s decision not to charge the officer who shot Jacob in the back multiple times, leaving him paralyzed, further destroys trust in our justice system. This sends the wrong message to police officers throughout the country. It says it is OK for police to abuse their power and recklessly shoot their weapon, destroying the life of someone who was trying to protect his children."
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, and other officers involved in the incident, will not be charged in the August 2020 shooting following a months-long into the incident, which was caught on camera by bystanders, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday. Blake will also not face charges in the incident, Graveley added.
A federal investigation on civil rights charges remains ongoing.
“It’s very important to me that this conversation be a complicated conversation, that it be a real conversation, not a simplistic one," Graveley said in explaining the decision.
Crump said the Blake family plans to continue with a civil lawsuit.
“This is not the news we were hoping for, but our work is not done and hope is not lost," the statement read. "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."
Graveley stressed that his decision was "Laser focused" on what would be allowed in a jury trial.
"It means that this case is all about self-defense, and can it be proven that it doesn't exist," Graveley said. "It's about the perspective of Officer Sheskey. What is his knowledge at each moment, and what does a reasonable officer do at each moment? Almost none of those things are answered by the deeply disturbing video we've all seen."
In the shooting Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times after walking away from Sheskey and two other officers who were trying to arrest him. Blake was shot after he opened the driver’s side door of an SUV and allegedly turned toward officers with a knife in his right hand.
The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down and set off days of protests and demonstrations and several nights of looting and vandalism.
The city and county have been preparing for days ahead of the highly anticipated decision, with both activists and officials calling for peace and nonviolent responses to the announcement.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian was granted emergency powers by the Kenosha City Council Monday as officials braced for expected unrest following the decision.
The mayor and the Kenosha police department have indicated that they plan to institute curfews if necessary, designate demonstration spaces, limit city bus routes, close down roads and impose other safety restrictions if need be.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also activated the state’s National Guard on Monday to provide assistance to local law enforcement in the event of unrest.
Activists have asked residents and demonstrators to avoid a repeat after the Blake decision is handed down, calling for non-violent demonstrations.
“We want everyone to come out and be as loud as they want, but we don’t want destruction of property,” activist Tanya McLean said. “We’re for non-violence. Anything else isn’t acceptable for this community.”