Federal prosecutors will not file charges against Rusten Sheskey, the police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. Sheskey, 31, fired seven bullets into Blake’s back as he attempted to enter a car on August 23, 2020. Blake was left paralyzed but expects to walk again.
This is the second time this year that Sheskey has avoided criminal charges in relation to the shooting. County prosecutors announced in January of this year that Sheskey was justified in his actions on the grounds that state law allows individuals to use deadly force in self defense. Both Sheskey and prosecutors at the county and federal level claim that Blake was a threat to the officer.
Officers were attempting to arrest Blake after a 911 call about a domestic disturbance when a scuffle between Blake and the officer ensued. During the course of the altercation, Blake held a knife in his hand as he moves toward his car, attempting to open the door. Sheskey grabbed at Blake and fired seven rounds, hitting him with four in his back and three in his side.
Blake claims that he was putting the knife away in the car, but prosecutors have argued that he was an imminent threat to officer Sheskey.
Occurring just three months after the police murder of George Floyd, the shooting of Blake sparked mass protests against police violence in Kenosha and across Wisconsin.
It was during these protests that the fascist gunman Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, shot and killed two people and injured a third after traveling to Kenosha from Illinois to confront protesters and join a far-right militia group in protecting private property.
Rittenhouse was given free passage by the police to return home after shooting multiple people. He faces several counts of homicide in a trial set to begin next month. Rittenhouse’s lawyers are also claiming that he fired in self defense and that the state’s hunting laws allowed him to carry the assault rifle he used in the killings. The decisions on Blake’s shooting offers a look into the potential acquittal of the right-wing assassin.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a statement on Friday which stated that “After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the KPD [Kenosha Police Department] officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, the review of this incident has been closed without a federal prosecution.”
The DOJ concluded that they could not determine that Sheskey “’willingly’ deprived an individual of a constitutional right.”
Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, expressed the disappointment of his family when he called the decision “unconscionable” and said it “definitely steps on every civil right we can imagine this country owes every African American descendant.”
“If we had a heart to be broken, it would be. But because we’ve been through all we’ve been, we’re not,” he told the Associated Press.
Blake himself captured the horrific reality that millions of working class people face everyday when he said in an interview with CNN that “I really don’t feel like I have survived because it could happen to me again. I have not survived until something has changed.”
Despite the mass, multiracial and international protests last year against police violence, there has been no change in the reign of terror being meted out by police across the country every day, which is backed by the Democrats as well as Republicans.
Faced with popular demands to reduce funding to police departments, many Democratic Party-controlled cities cut police budgets. Yet one year later, those same cities are set to vastly increase the budgets of their police forces.
The New York Times reported Sunday that New York City has allocated an additional $200 million for its police department, and Los Angeles will provide a 3 percent funding increase to its force.
In Austin, Texas, the city council reduced the police budget by $150 million following the George Floyd protests. Just one year later, it has approved a new police budget that will raise the budget to $442 million, its highest-ever level by $8 million.
Dallas, Texas is following a similar pattern. Mayor Eric Johnson, who is black and a Democrat, proposed restoring the city’s police budget and increasing the number of officers on the street. Following Johnson’s proposal, there were no protests, nor were there many people present to oppose the measure at public hearings. The measure, which hires 250 new officers, was passed with little attention last month.
In supporting the new budget Johnson deployed identity politics in its favor, stating during an interview in Dallas City Hall with the Times, “As an African American male who came of age in the 1990s, I remember a lot of people whose lives were devastated by violence. I don’t want to go back there.”
Johnson did not mention the role that Democratic Party policies under the Clinton administration played in devastating working class communities and throwing tens of thousands of young men, disproportionately African American, into prison.