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Officer who shot Jacob Blake won't face federal civil rights charges

The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down and sparked several nights of protests.
Image: Rusten Sheskey
Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey in Wisconsin in 2019.Brian Passino / The Kenosha News via AP

The Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake last year in Wisconsin will not face federal civil rights charges, prosecutors announced Friday.

Officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, shot Blake during a domestic disturbance in Kenosha in August 2020. The shooting left Blake, who is Black, paralyzed from the waist down and sparked several nights of protests.

Image: Jacob Blake
Jacob Blake.Facebook

"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 officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. "Accordingly, the review of this incident has been closed without a federal prosecution."

State prosecutors decided not to file charges against Sheskey in January after video showed that Blake had been armed with a knife. He was wanted on a felony warrant.

Sheskey returned to work in March following administrative leave but did not face discipline, according to the police department. He was "found to have been acting within policy and will not be subjected to discipline," according to a statement from Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.

The Justice Department’s findings mirror Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley’s determination in January that Sheskey could successfully argue that he fired in self-defense.

Investigators found that Blake had fought with three officers for several minutes before he was shot, at one point shrugging off a shock from a stun gun, and was trying to get into an SUV when Sheskey tried to stop him by pulling on his shirt. Graveley said video shows Blake turning toward Sheskey with a knife and made a motion toward the officer with the knife.

An Illinois man who shot three people during a demonstration in Kenosha last year, killing two of them, is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 1 on several charges, including homicide and attempted homicide. Attorneys for the man, Kyle Rittenhouse, say he fired in self-defense.