The Wisconsin police officer who shot Jacob Blake will not be facing criminal charges, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday afternoon, delivering a blow to those hoping for justice for the 29-year-old. Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran with the Kenosha Police Department, shot Blake seven times in the back as he was walking to his car where his children were seated last August.
The shooting, which left Blake partially paralyzed, ignited protests and riots across the country. “This decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice,” Ben Crump, the lawyer for the Blake family, wrote on Twitter.
After video of the shooting was shared widely across social media, demonstrators took to the streets calling for charges to be filed against Sheskey. Professional athletes joined the demands for justice, with the entire Milwaukee Bucks team boycotting their first playoff game last August and tennis champion Naomi Osaka skipping a semifinal match in hopes of drawing more attention to the ongoing issue of police brutality.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable,” Milwaukee’s George Hill said after the boycott. “For this to occur, it’s imperative for the Wisconsin state legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality, and criminal justice reform.”
On Monday night, Blake's family once again returned to the streets to lead a peaceful march calling for Sheskey to be charged. Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, the city braced for unrest, with stores boarding up and 500 National Guard troops coming in to assist local law enforcement.
According to Graveley, investigators reviewed 40 hours of video and hundreds of pages of police reportsin making their decision. He said that the determining factor was the finding by an independent use of force expert that the officers acted reasonably and appropriately. Blake was walking away into his car; officers believed he was armed with a knife but bystanders have disputed that claim.
Blake and his family are committed to keeping the fight going. “This isn't the news we hoped for, but our work is not done and hope is not lost,” Crump said. “We must broaden the fight for justice on behalf of Jacob Blake and the countless other Black victims of racial injustice and police brutality.”
Also Tuesday, accused murderer Kyle Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the protests in Kenosha after police shot Blake. Rittenhouse traveled to Wisconsin from his home in Illinois to, in his words, "protect" people and businesses from the protesters who were demanding justice for Blake. He arrived in Kenosha brandishing a rifle and is accused of shooting three men, two of whom died. He had been charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and attempted first-degree reckless homicide, in addition to a charge of violating curfew that was added later.