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What we know about the career of the Kenosha officer who shot Jacob Blake

Rusten Sheskey said in an August 2019 interview that what he likes most about police work "is that you're dealing with people on perhaps the worst day of their lives and you can try and help them."

The police officer who authorities say shot Jacob Blake seven times Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, said he had always wanted to be in law enforcement.

The officer, Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department, held Blake's shirt during an arrest and opened fire as he tried to get in a vehicle, state Attorney General Josh Kaul said Wednesday.

Kenosha Police officer Rusten Sheskey in 2019 in Wis. State authorities identified Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department, as the officer who shot Jacob Blake.John Sloca / The Kenosha News via AP file

Blake remains in stable condition in a hospital, though his family's lawyers and his father say he is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the shooting.

Sheskey, 31, and the other officers who were involved in the confrontation were placed on administrative leave while the investigation by local, state and federal officials continues, Kaul said. Sheskey could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said he has asked the U.S. attorney's office to investigate. The Department of Justice said Wednesday it had opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.

Wisconsin's attorney general said that investigators found a knife on the driver’s side floorboard after the shooting. But a lawyer for Blake's family, Benjamin Crump, has said that Blake did not have a knife in his hand. Crump said Blake was trying to get into his car to protect his sons, who were in the back seat.

The shooting has sparked protests in Kenosha and major cities across the country.

The police department has not released Sheskey's employment file and has not responded to multiple phone and email requests for comment. He was suspended one day without pay in 2017 for an unspecified violation of policy in September 2016 related to the safe use of department vehicles.

He started with the department in April 2013, according to county records. Prior to that, he worked as an officer at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside campus.

Sheskey was sued in 2015, along with the city of Kenosha, in a personal injury case that involved a vehicle. The case was resolved in 2016, the court docket shows. The woman involved in the case, who was a minor at the time, declined to comment Friday.

In August 2019, when asked by the Kenosha News if he had always wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, Sheskey said: "Yes, for the most part. My grandfather actually worked for the city for 33 years."

His grandfather, Oreste "Rusty" Maraccini, was a longtime officer for the Kenosha police, according to a department Facebook post.

The newspaper reported in the August 2019 article that Sheskey had ridden with the department's bike unit for two years. Among the advantages of being out on a bike, Sheskey said, was that it allowed him to interact more with the public.

"You still have to take calls, but you get to be more proactive and kind of decide what direction you want to go," he said. "If you want to do more enforcement, you can do that. If you want to do more public relations — go down to the lake, stop out and talk with the people — you can choose to do that as well."

He also said that what he liked most about police work "is that you're dealing with people on perhaps the worst day of their lives and you can try and help them as much as you can and make that day a little bit better."

He added: "And that, for the most part, people trust us to do that for them. And it's a huge responsibility, and I really like trying to help the people. We may not be able to make a situation right, or better, but we can maybe make it a little easier for them to handle during that time."