Yesterday the Gov. of Wisconsin deployed the National Guard to Kenosha in the expectation that a charging decision in the Jacob Black case would be coming soon. That now appears to have been a good decision as the District Attorney announced a short time ago that no charges will be filed against Officer Rusten Sheskey or anyone else:
The Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake in August will not be criminally charged, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday.
Neither the officer who fired, Rusten Sheskey, or any others will be charged, Graveley said during a Tuesday news conference. His decision was based on evidence that could not be seen on cellphone video of the incident, which showed Sheskey shooting Blake, 29, as he got into a vehicle with his children inside.
So what was the evidence he’s talking about that wasn’t seen on the cellphone video? DA Graveley’s announcement and discussion of the case lasted more than an hour. He made the announcement about not charging the officers about 10 minutes into that statement and then went into the details of why he had come to that decision. He said his “laser focus” throughout the case was what charges could be brought and what laws would govern those charges.
“My belief is that this is not a case where there would be any dispute about any of the factual circumstances of this case except for one piece of law and that is self defense,” Graveley said. He went on to say that under Wisconsin law when self defense is raised it becomes the burden of the prosecutor to disprove self defense. “The burden of proof is on the state in that situation,” he said.
Graveley said he’d heard from people who wanted to see Officer Sheskey charged in order to send a message to other officers or to provide a win for social justice. But he said those were not ethical reasons for charging someone.
Finally, Graveley put forward the facts of the case as they would be presented to a jury. He said that this began because a domestic violence victim named Laquisha Booker called police worried that Jacob Blake was going to take her rental car. He played the 911 call in which Booker herself asked police to come get the keys to her rental back as Blake tried to leave with it. This information was then relayed to officers. In addition, officers were made aware that there was a felony warrant for Blake for a previous domestic violence case. Graveley pointed out that officers have no discretion in such a case. They must try to arrest Blake at this point.
When they arrived at the scene the officers see Blake putting a child into the car. He then told them directly that he was leaving with the car (and the child). Graveley said the bottom line is that this was a domestic violence scenario with Blake exhibiting controlling behavior he had exhibited in prior instances.
The attempted arrest of Blake turned into a wrestling match. Officers attempted to tase him 3 times but he shrugged it off. Also during this encounter, he armed himself with a knife. Officers ordered him to drop the knife but he kept walking toward the car. It’s at that point that Officer Sheskey decided he had to prevent Blake from leaving. He had a felony warrant. He’d violently resisted arrest. The car was not his and there was a child inside. The officer believed if he got in the car a high speed chase would follow or perhaps things would escalate to something worse like a hostage situation.
At this point two of the officers and one civilian witness say Blake twisted his body in a way that moved the knife toward the officers. It’s not visible in the video because the officer’s bodies and the car door are in the way. And that motion is the reason Sheskey decided to fire his gun. Another officer said he also would have fired his gun at that point if he’d had a clear shot.
In addition to the testimony of the officers, an expert looked at the shots to Blake’s back and determined that 3 of the 7 shots were to Blake’s left side, consistent with what the officers and witnesses described of Blake turning toward Officer Sheskey with the knife.
In addition, Graveley points out that Blake’s explanation of what happened at the scene is not credible. He claimed not to know why the officers were trying to arrest him. He flatly claimed he had no idea there was a warrant out for his arrest. But the investigators found a text on Blake’s phone in which he mentioned that there was an arrest warrant out for him. It was the only warrant for his arrest so there’s no confusion which warrant this was about. He also had searched for his own warrant on a website. In short, he lied and his credibility as a prosecution witness would be severely limited because of that.
In addition there was a previous case from 2010 where Blake pulled an open knife during a confrontation with a group of officers who then pulled their guns on him. He continued to threaten the officers with the knife and was tased multiple times before he was finally arrested. So Blake’s denial that he wouldn’t have harmed anyone in this case isn’t worth much.
The bottom line is that Graveley believes any decent defense attorney would be able to win this case if it were brought. Here’s the full video of the announcement:
Update: Gotta love the Washington Post which managed to completely miss everything in the announcement today about the knife Jacob Blake had (and which he admitted he had).
The @washingtonpost is spreading dangerous misinformation. This is beyond unhelpful as we work to maintain public safety in Kenosha. Jacob Blake even admitted to being armed with a knife. https://t.co/LxCXakLydg pic.twitter.com/dPozkWRtRj
— Bryan Steil (@RepBryanSteil) January 5, 2021
They deleted that tweet.
We’ve deleted a previous tweet that incorrectly described Jacob Blake as unarmed. While his family has said he was not armed when shot by police, prosecutors on Tuesday said video evidence depicts him holding a knife. The story has been corrected.
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 6, 2021
They also corrected the error in the story.
Helluva correction by the Washington Post pic.twitter.com/VcI1h4zmMu
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 6, 2021