After the Kenosha County District Attorney's Office announced the officer who shot Jacob Blake in Aug. 2020 will not face criminal charges, Blake's family said they won't stop seeking justice.
In a press conference Tuesday, Jacob Blake Sr., Jacob Blake's father, said the news that officers would not be charged did not surprise them, but that the family was "unhappy."
"We expected it. It did not sideswipe us or jump us from the backside. We understood what was going to come when they called in the National Guard," Blake Sr. said.
Blake Sr. said they will continue to take their fight for justice to Congress, saying that the family intends to mobilize a movement and to demand meetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate leaders.
"We must abolish the right for police to be seen on a higher plane than citizens of the United States," Blake Sr. said. "Our fight isn’t over. We’ll see you in D.C. We’ll all see you in D.C."
Blake's father added that he is still suffering from pain related to the summer shooting in Kenosha.
"He’s in pain 24 hours a day, but sometimes he has better days than others," Blake Sr. said. "Of course his body has been peppered with bullets. The incredible amount of pain from the muscle spasms, to sit there and watch it day in and day out, as demoralizing as it is for you, think about what it’s like for a 29 year old who was fully functional for this."
B'Ivory LaMarr, an attorney representing the Blake family, asked the crowd to think of how they would feel hearing that officers who shot and paralyzed them were not charged, referencing Blake's current situation.
"It's extremely disappointing to sit paralyzed, never walk again. And to be able to hear that the officer is not even going to get the opportunity to go before a jury of his peers. I mean, that is just a grave injustice," LaMarr said.
LaMarr then asked if he could be shown where in the video footage the officers felt threatened that they would be stabbed by Blake that they felt a need to defend themselves.
"If officers can justify shooting someone seven times in this circumstance, we have a lot of work to do," LaMarr said.
On the announcement from the Kenosha County District Attorney's Office Tuesday, LaMarr said the decision is "very discouraging" for protesters who have gathered peacefully since August to urge change.
"We won't stop. And it doesn't stop here. And I think in 2021, it shows one very important thing. And that is that there's three, three justice systems in America. There's one for black and brown people, one for police officers, and one for the rest of America. And we won't stop until there's actually truly one nation under God with justice and liberty. First off, we won't stop until we get there," LaMarr said.
Other attorneys for the family of Blake said they are also "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.
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, and other officers involved in the incident, will not be charged in the shooting following a months-long investigation into the shooting, saying that investigators concluded that the officers acted appropriately and in their "own self-defense" during the shooting.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday. Blake will also not face charges in the incident.
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, according to authorities. Blake was shot after he opened the driver’s side door of an SUV and leaned into the vehicle, allegedly turning toward officers with a knife, according to the Kenosha County DA.
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.