The police officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake, which touched off days of civil unrest last summer in Wisconsin, will not face any criminal charges, authorities said Tuesday.
Blake, who is Black, was struck by seven bullets at close range Aug. 23 as he walked away from Kenosha police Officer Rusten Sheskey, who had answered a domestic disturbance call.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley told reporters that Sheskey and other officers would have had a strong case for self-defense.
“If you don’t believe you can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, you have an ethical obligation not to issue charges,” Graveley said at a news conference.
Blake’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, said Graveley wrongfully denied the community its chance to try the facts.
“We are immensely disappointed in Kenosha District Attorney Michael Gravely’s decision not to charge the officers involved in this horrific shooting,” Crump said in a statement.
“We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice.”
Graveley said he shared his findings with Blake before speaking to reporters late Tuesday afternoon.
Even before he announced his findings, Graveley pleaded for peace.
“Can moments of tragedy like this be an opportunity to build things?” he said.
The shooting paralyzed Blake below the waist, according to his family.
Police responded to a call of a domestic incident near 2800 40th St. on the early Sunday evening in late August, officials said.
Kenosha police officers are not equipped with body cameras. A bystander captured the confrontation, which appeared to show Blake walking away and about to get into the driver’s side of his SUV when Sheskey opened fire.
Sheskey and fellow Officer Vincent Arenas both used Tasers on Blake but could not stop him, authorities have said.
Blake was near a knife when he was shot, state prosecutors have said, and a blade was found in the footwell of the vehicle.
Raysean White, the bystander who recorded the video, said he heard police yelling “drop the knife!” but never saw Blake armed with a blade. Graveley said the video did not capture attempts to arrest Blake before the shooting.
“Multiple officers tried to grab his arms and try to secure him so he can be cuffed,” Graveley said. “He admits at one point, ‘Officers were trying to handcuff me, but I was able to get up.'”
Graveley said officers had no choice but to arrest Blake and prevent him from leaving with a car or the children of Laquisha Booker, who has three children with him. And once officers learned that there was a warrant for Blake’s arrest, his arrest became a paramount priority, Graveley said.
Graveley said several times Tuesday that it was “incontrovertible” that Blake had a knife in his hand when the incident occurred and that he admitted to getting a knife. Sheskey told investigators that he was unsure whether Blake was going to kidnap or hurt the child in the car.
“Officer Sheskey knows that an armed man with a felony warrant, who just forcefully resisted arrest, appears to be about to flee in a disputed vehicle, and there’s at least one child in the back,” Graveley said. “Those are all the facts that Officer Sheskey has in the context of a domestic abuse case at the point he has to decide what to do next.”
Graveley cited an opinion from former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who was hired as an independent consultant for prosecutors, that said it was a reasonable decision to engage in force with Blake based on the information Sheskey had at the time.