No charges against Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake in back

The federal Justice Department announced today that it will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against Rusten Sheskey, the Kenosha Police Department officer responsible for shooting 30-year-old Jacob Blake in his back seven times during an Aug. 23, 2020.

In April 2021 Sheskey returned to regular police duty.

Sheskey shot Blake in the back, firing seven times inflicting multiple wounds when Blake opened the driver’s door to an SUV and leaned into it. Sheskey said that he believed he was about to be stabbed.

Earlier during the encounter, Blake had been tasered and had scuffled with officers who responded to a 9-1-1 call about a “domestic incident” at shortly after 5 p.m. , when a female caller referred to Blake as her “boyfriend”, said he was not permitted to be on the premises, and that he’d taken her car keys and was refusing to give them back.

Blake had a warrant for his arrest from July, based on charges of third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse.

The woman who summoned police on August 23 to report that Blake had stolen her keys referred to him as her “boyfriend” and was the same woman who filed the complaint alleging that he sexually assaulted her by thrusting his finger into her vagina while she was sleeping.

As a result of the shooting, Blake was paralyzed from the waist down. He also suffered a gunshot wound to one arm and damage to his stomach, kidney, and liver; he had to have most of his small intestines and colon removed.

Officials from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin informed representatives of the Blake family of this determination. The department said it made the decision because the evidence obtained is insufficient to prove that the Kenosha officer willfully used excessive force.

A team of experienced federal prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office reviewed evidence obtained by the FBI and state investigators to determine whether the police officer violated any federal laws, focusing on the application of deprivation of rights under color of law, a federal criminal civil rights statute that prohibits certain types of official misconduct.

They conducted a detailed and lengthy analysis of numerous materials, including police reports, law enforcement accounts, witness statements, affidavits of witnesses, dispatch logs, physical evidence reports, photographs and videos of some portions of the incident.

Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an officer “willfully” deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids.

This is the highest standard of intent imposed by the law.

Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.

After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Kenosha officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, the review of this incident has been closed without a federal prosecution.

In January 2021, Kenosha County prosecutors announced that the officers involved in the shooting will not face criminal charges under state law, though they remained on administrative leave.

The Kenosha County prosecutors also said at that time that Blake would face no charges with regard to the incident that resulted in his shooting.

Two months earlier, Blake was sentenced to two years of probation for prior charges of disorderly conduct.

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