The white police officer who paralyzed Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, from the waist down by shooting him seven times last year, has returned to work without facing any disciplinary action.
Officer Rusten Sheskey came back from administrative leave on March 31 after an investigation into the August shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, according to a statement released Tuesday by Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis.
“He acted within the law and was consistent with training,” the chief said of Sheskey. “The incident was also reviewed internally. Officer Sheskey was found to have been acting within policy and will not be subjected to discipline.”
Kenosha police were responding to what they called a “domestic incident” on Aug. 23, 2020, when Sheskey fired seven rounds at Blake’s back and side as he leaned inside the driver’s side door of a parked SUV with his two young children in the back.
The officers were not equipped with body cameras at the time of the shooting, but 22-year-old bystander Raysean White filmed the encounter and posted it online as people around the nation protested police brutality.
Video showed three officers yelling for Blake to drop a knife before gunfire ensued. However, White said he never saw Blake holding one in the first place. A knife was later found on the driver-side floorboard of the SUV.
Sheskey and two other officers were trying to arrest Blake on an outstanding warrant when a pocketknife fell from his pants, according to The Associated Press. Blake said he picked it up before going back to the SUV and was prepared to surrender once he put the knife in the car.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said in January that Sheskey would not face any charges for the shooting, stressing that self-defense statutes played a significant role in his decision. He claimed it was “absolutely appropriate” to question whether firing seven shots was excessive, but that Sheskey said he continued firing rounds until the “threat” stopped as part of his training.
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who represents Blake and his family, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on the Kenosha chief’s statement.
Blake filed a federal civil suit last month against Sheskey seeking unspecified damages. The complaint accuses Sheskey of excessive force that was “undertaken with malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference to” his rights and that put his children in “imminent danger” from being hit by gunfire.
“Although this incident has been reviewed at multiple levels, I know that some will not be pleased with the outcome,” Miskinis said. “However, given the facts, the only lawful and appropriate decision was made.”
Blake’s shooting put a spotlight on Wisconsin during a summer of demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice. The shooting in Kenosha occurred three months after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was accused of using a counterfeit bill. Then-officer Derek Chauvin choked Floyd by kneeling on his neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
As Sheskey returns to active duty, Chauvin is being tried for murder in Floyd’s death. And just days ago, a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright after he was pulled over for a minor traffic violation.
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