Prosecutors clear white police officer over Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin

By Brendan O'Brien KENOSHA, Wisc.

Reuters January 06, 2021 05:10:09 IST
Prosecutors clear white police officer over Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin

Prosecutors clear white police officer over Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin

By Brendan O'Brien

KENOSHA, Wisc. (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Tuesday cleared a white police officer in the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, an incident that touched off deadly street protests and inflamed racial tensions in the United States.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley found that police officer Rusten Sheskey acted in self-defense and said he would not issue any charges in connection with the incident.

The decision neither to prosecute Sheskey nor the two other officers on the scene could incite more demonstrations, which have frequently broken out in the United States in recent years after police have been cleared of wrongdoing in shootings of African Americans.

During a police intervention in a domestic dispute that was captured on cellphone video, Sheskey shot at Blake's back seven times from close range as Blake opened the door of his car, striking him four times and paralyzing him from the waist down.

Officials said Blake was armed with a knife and refused police commands to drop it, which Graveley said gave Sheskey the right to self-defense.

"It is absolutely incontrovertible that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife during this encounter," Graveley said, adding that Blake admitted several times to investigators he had the knife.

The police who were called to the scene had been told there was a felony arrest warrant against Blake for domestic abuse and sexual assault, Graveley said. The officers attempted to detain Blake and stop him with a Taser multiple times, but Blake withstood the use of force to avoid arrest, Graveley said.

The knife was not clearly visible in the video, which also began after the previous attempts to arrest Blake, Graveley said.

Blake's lawyer, Ben Crump, has said Blake was attempting to break up a fight when he was shot in front of three of his sons, aged 3, 5 and 8. Blake's lawyers were due to speak at a press conference later on Tuesday.

The shooting took place while passions were still inflamed over the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. Thousands took the streets in "Black Lives Matter" anti-racism protests in the United States and around the world following Floyd's death despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sheskey shooting of Blake attracted a mix of civil rights demonstrators, anarchists and right-wing militias to the streets of Kenosha, a city of 100,000 people about 40 miles (65 km) south of Milwaukee.

At the height of those protests, teenager Kyle Rittenhouse opened fire with a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle, killing two men and wounding another. Rittenhouse, now 18, was charged with first-degree reckless homicide and five other criminal counts.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to all counts in an appearance by video in Kenosha County Circuit Court.

As the charging decision against Sheskey neared, the city of Kenosha announced it was making preparations for demonstrations. Responding to the request of local officials, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers authorized the Wisconsin National Guard to support local law enforcement in anticipation of unrest.

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said in a statement on Sunday that officials would impose curfews, designate an area for demonstrations, section off areas with fencing and close streets.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Grant McCool)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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