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Police to face no criminal charges in Jacob Blake case

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8-24 Jacob Blake Shooting

KENOSHA (WKOW) -- Kenosha County District Attorney Michael D. Graveley today announced that there will be no criminal charges filed against any of the officers in the Jacob Blake case.

Blake, who is Black, was left paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back Aug. 23 by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, who had responded to a call at the scene.

Gravely made his announcement during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

The Blake family's attorney responded on Twitter that the decision failed the family.

"We are immensely disappointed and feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice," Attorney Ben Crump posted.

"This isn't the news we hoped for, but our work is not done and hope is not lost. We must broaden the fight for justice on behalf of Jacob Blake and the countless other Black victims of racial injustice and police brutality," Crump said.

One of the issues that had been in dispute leading up to today's decision was whether or not Blake was in possession of a knife at the time of the shooting.

During his lengthy presentation, Gravely said that Blake admitted to investigators that he had a knife during the confrontation with police.

However investigative files released by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation include an interview after the shooting with Jacob Blake where he tells investigators," "why would I pull a knife on a cop, what am I, a knife thrower, I ain't going to pull no knife on no damn cop."

According to the DCI report, Blake told investigators that he had a knife in his possession and he dropped it on the ground near the vehicle, but he believes the officers didn't see him drop it.

Blake said the officers approached him and put their hands on him and he just wanted to leave the area with his kids.

He said officers tazed him at least two times while he was trying to leave but he just tore the wires and recalls that at some point he was tackled to the ground and he got up and picked up his knife again.

Blake told investigators that he wanted to put his knife away in the car because it was a gift given to him and it meant a lot to him and he did not want to lose it.

The knife is described in the report as a 7 inch Karambit style knife that is liked by many first responders.

Blake said he always kept it with him.

The knife recovered from the car at the scene of the Jacob Blake shooting.

According to Graveley, Sheskey told investigators that Blake turned and moved the knife toward him, leading him to believe his life was in danger.

Gravely emphasized that under Wisconsin law, so long as there is some corroborating evidence, any officer who shoots another person is presumed to have done so in self-defense. It is the prosecutor's job to prove otherwise.

The district attorney said the evidence would not have supported charges against officers.

Gravely and former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who was brought in as an independent expert to review the investigation, both said that the officers involved followed use of force training before shooting.

Gravely said that Officer Ryan Sheskey, the man who shot Blake, comforted the man he had just shot while they waited for the ambulance.

Blake was shot seven times. Wray said officers are trained to keep firing until the threat has ended and that Sheskey squeezed off the rounds in less than three seconds.

In a statement, Gov. Tony Evers renewed his call for more police accountability.

“Jacob Blake’s life has forever been changed and his kids witnessed violence no kid should ever see, experienced trauma no kid should ever endure, all while the world watched," Evers said.

"And yet, when presented the opportunity to rise to this moment and this movement and take action to provide meaningful, commonsense reform to enhance accountability and promote transparency in policing in our state, elected officials took no action," he said. 

“Today’s decision is further evidence that our work is not done—we must work each day in earnest toward a more just, more fair, and more equitable state and country, and to combat the racism experienced by Black Wisconsinites," Evers said.

At the request of local authorities, Evers has called up the Wisconsin National Guard to Kenosha ahead of the release of a charging decision in the Jacob Blake case.

“We are continuing to work with our local partners in the Kenosha area to ensure they have the state support they need, just as we have in the past,” said Evers. “Our members of the National Guard will be on hand to support local first responders, ensure Kenoshans are able to assemble safely, and to protect critical infrastructure as necessary.”

Guard members called to active duty may only be used to provide support to local law enforcement and to provide support to first responders such as the Kenosha Fire Department, according to the news release.

The National Guard may not be used to impede the ability of people to peacefully protest or impede the ability of the media to report on this situation.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul issued his own statement Tuesday night which included a call for reform.

"There is a pressing need for reform of our criminal justice system," he said. "But the system we have in place—which, unlike the criminal justice systems in many others states, has not been significantly reformed in recent years—has produced staggering and unacceptable racial disparities."

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