KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS) — Kenosha police Officer Rusten Sheskey is back on the job after all reviews concluded that he acted within the law when he shot Jacob Blake back in August.
Kenosha police Chief Daniel Miskinis said in a statement Tuesday that the Blake shooting on Aug. 23, 2020 was investigated by an outside agency and reviewed by an independent expert as well as the Kenosha County District Attorney’s office. There was also an internal police investigation.READ MORE: Burglars Target The North Face Store, Foot Locker In Wicker Park; Boost Mobile Nearby In Humboldt Park
Sheskey was found to have been acting within policy and will not be subjected to any discipline.
As of March 31, Sheskey had returned to the force from administrative leave, the statement said.
“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,” Miskinis said in the statement.
On that August day, Sheskey, who is white, shot Blake, 29, who is Black, seven times. Blake was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced back in January that no officers would be charged in Blake’s shooting.
Graveley said Laquisha Booker, who had been described previously as Blake’s fiancée, had called police to say Blake would not give her back her keys to her rental vehicle and was afraid he would crash the vehicle as he had on other occasions. He noted that that before the officers even arrived, their dashboard computer had included information about a felony warrant against Blake involving sexual assault and domestic violence.
Sheskey arrived at the scene with officers Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, Graveley said. At that point, Sheskey reported hearing Booker yell, “It’s him! It’s him! It’s my keys! It’s my car.”
An officer also reported hearing Blake declaring, “I’m taking the kids and I’m taking the car.”
Based on that, the officers identified the situation as a domestic abuse scenario, Graveley said. He said the officers observed that Blake was exhibiting controlling behavior, and Booker had called police because she was powerless in that situation.
Graveley also said Blake exhibited resisting behavior and admitted himself to doing so when he talked to investigators. The prosecutor said officers tried to bring Blake into custody in “multiple ways” that were not seen on the video that appeared on social media the day of the shooting.
Officers tried to direct Blake to the ground, and multiple officers tried to secure him, Graveley said. Blake admitted that an officer tried to handcuff him, but he was able to get up and evade the handcuffs, Graveley said.
Officers also used a Taser on Blake twice – once with a remote hit and once with a direct hit – and it did not have an effect, Graveley said.
Sheskey and Meronek said they had “never seen a defendant before who had as little impact by a Taser as Jacob Blake,” Graveley said.
Graveley claimed Blake also armed himself with a knife while actively resisting. Graveley said the officers called on Blake to drop the knife.
Graveley said Sheskey grabbed Blake’s T-shirt as Blake entered the vehicle, with the reasoning, as quoted by Graveley: “I don’t know what he’s going to do. Is he going to hurt the child? Is he going to take off in the vehicle?”
Graveley said Sheskey also reported concerns that a pursuit of a vehicle with the child inside might follow, or the child might be held hostage.
Blake then opened the door of the vehicle and admitted to switching the hand in which he was holding the knife when doing so, Graveley said.
The prosecutor said Sheskey reported his thought process was, “I can’t let him get in that car without being back in harm’s way.”
Graveley also said while the video does not document it, officers and civilian witnesses saw Blake twist his body and move his right hand toward Sheskey – at which point Graveley claimed Sheskey was still holding the knife.READ MORE: President Biden Restricts Travel From South Africa and 7 Other African Countries Due To New COVID Variant; Cook County Health Official Says New Variant Wasn't A Shock
Graveley also said while video does not document it, officers and civilian witnesses saw Blake twist his body and move his right hand toward Sheskey – at which point Graveley claimed Sheskey was still holding the knife.
Sheskey said he did not feel it was appropriate just to fire his gun because Blake displayed a knife or got into the vehicle, Graveley said. The officer said he only resorted to that step and shot Blake seven times after Blake made the motion in his direction with the knife, Graveley said.
Graveley also said while the narrative many have heard is that Blake was shot seven times in the back, an investigator found that was not the case. Graveley said rather, evidence showed Blake had four gunshot wounds in the back and three to the left side.
In terms of the number of shots, Graveley said Sheskey reported he fired until Blake dropped the knife – by contrast to Blake’s attorneys’ claim that he had already dropped the knife before Sheskey fired.
A much different narrative emerged in a lawsuit that attorneys for Blake filed against Sheskey in late March.
The lawsuit claimed that Sheskey shot Blake after he had dropped a knife on the floor of his vehicle and was just trying to sit down in the driver’s seat.
In the lawsuit, attorneys for Blake said he was at celebrating his son’s eighth birthday at a home on 40th Street in Kenosha, on invitation from Laquisha Booker, who had been described previously as Blake’s fiancée.
After a quarrel between Booker and a woman who lived nearby, Blake decided to leave with his two sons to avoid the confrontation, the lawsuit said.
Around 5:11 p.m., Booker called Kenosha police and said she had allowed Blake to come to the home, but he “wasn’t supposed to be there,” the lawsuit said. Sheskey and other officers were sent to the home as Blake was putting one of his sons in the back seat of a Dodge sport-utility vehicle, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claimed that without announcement that he intended to arrest Blake or any command to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. Sheskey grabbed Blake by the wrist and tried to force Blake’s arm while Blake was placing is son in the SUV. Blake tensed up his arm and tried to maintain balance by putting his hands on top of the car, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claimed that at that point, Sheskey and other officers physically attacked Blake – punching him, choking him, and deploying a Taser on him three times. As Blake struggled to get to his feet afterward, he picked up a folding utility knife that had been dropped on the ground earlier and started walking away from the officers, the lawsuit said.
Blake walked around to the driver’s side door of the SUV and put his hand on the door handle, and he never tried to run from the officers, the lawsuit alleged. Blake also did not try to strike any of the officers, point the knife at them, verbally threaten them or anyone else, make any “abrupt physical gestures,” or try to start a confrontation, the lawsuit said.
But as Blake walked around to the driver’s side of the SUV, Sheskey and other officers followed him with their guns drawn, the lawsuit said. Blake began to open the driver’s side door of the SUV with his left hand, at which point Sheskey grabbed Blake’s T-shirt and tried to pull him backwards, the lawsuit alleged.
Upon opening the door, Blake dropped the knife on the floorboard of the SUV in plain view of Sheskey, the lawsuit said.
When Blake threw the knife on the floor of the SUV, his left hand was still on the exterior door handle and his right hand was extended away from Sheskey, the lawsuit said. But Sheskey kept pulling on Blake’s T-shirt with one hand and fired his gun at Blake with the other, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit emphasized in its claims that it was not until after Blake had dropped the knife that Sheskey fired seven shots at Blake at point-blank range.
Throughout the time the shots were being fired, Blake was moving away from Sheskey into a seated position and not toward him – as evidenced by the fact that Blake’s T-shirt kept getting stretched as Sheskey grabbed it, the lawsuit said. Blake was still motioning away from Sheskey even after Sheskey’s seventh shot severed Blake’s spinal column, the lawsuit alleged.
The Blake shooting sparked a wave of protests in Kenosha and across the country. There was also large-scale unrest in Kenosha during which several buildings were set on fire.
Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17, is accused of two fatal shootings during the protests in Kenosha.
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Rittenhouse is charged with homicide and attempted homicide for fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz on Aug. 25, 2020. He has pleaded not guilty and has been released on bond, and has been the subject of several of his own controversies since.