The Wisconsin police officer who shot Jacob Blake in the side and back during a confrontation caught on video last summer has been reinstated from administrative leave and will not face discipline in the case, the Kenosha Police Department announced Tuesday.
Officer Rusten Sheskey, who was not charged in connection with the Aug. 2020 shooting, was reinstated from administrative leave on March 31, according to Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.
Here is Chief Daniel Miskinis’ full statement:
“The Kenosha Police use of force incident on Aug. 23, 2020 was investigated by an outside agency; has been reviewed by an independent expert as well as the Kenosha County District Attorney. Officer Sheskey was not charged with any wrong doing. He acted within the law and was consistent with training. The incident was also reviewed internally. Officer Sheskey was found to have been acting within policy and will not be subject to discipline.
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“As of March 31, 2021, Officer Sheskey has returned from administrative leave. Although this incident has been reviewed at multiple levels, I know that some will not be pleased with the outcome; however, given the facts, the only lawful and appropriate decision was made.”
Although Sheskey is not facing charges in the incident, he is facing a federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed by Blake and his family after the charging decision was made.
According to a press release from civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is one of three lawyers representing Blake in the case, the suit was filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Wisconsin’s Eastern District.
“While Jacob Blake survived being shot six times, his devastating injuries are permanent and life-changing. The bullet that severed Jacob’s spinal cord has left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Jacob now suffers from an intractable pain syndrome,” attorney Patrick Salvi II said in a statement. “After various surgical procedures and an agonizing course of physical rehabilitation, Jacob remains unable to return to his job as a security guard and relies on others to assist him with the basic needs of daily living.”
The decision to file the suit came nearly three months after Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that criminal charges would not be filed against Sheskey or the other officers involved in the case.
The suit alleges that the shooting was not justified, with attorneys saying that the shooting was “excessive and unnecessary.”
“Nothing can undo this tragedy or take away the suffering endured by Jacob, his children, and the rest of the Blake family,” Crump said in a statement. "But hopefully today is a significant step in achieving justice for them and holding Officer Sheskey answerable for his nearly deadly actions - actions that have deprived Jacob of his ability to walk. The path to ending police brutality is a long and grinding one, but the fight for systemic change in policing and transparency - and for justice - can only happen with accountability. And that is what we hope to achieve with this filing.”
In detailing his decision in January, the Kenosha County DA stressed that he 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.”
The Blake family's attorney said they were "immensely disappointed" by the decision.
“We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice," Crump said in a statement after the January decision. “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."
Blake, who is Black, was shot in the back seven times after walking away from Sheskey and two other officers who were trying to arrest him. Officers fired their weapons when Blake opened the driver’s side door of an SUV and leaned into the vehicle. The shooting was captured on cell phone video.
Graveley and officials have said that Blake was armed with a knife at the time of the incident and that he admitted to police he had a knife, which was later recovered from his vehicle.
"Jacob Blake admits he has a knife. It’s not a cellphone. He admits it," Graveley said. "It’s a razor blade-type knife, and we had a DCI analyst take the shape and size to match it with the picture, and in fact it is a match. We say with confidence based on his admission, officers saying it and the video, he is clearly armed with a knife as he approaches the driver’s door."