US prosecutors announced Tuesday that neither Sheskey nor any other law enforcement officials present during the shooting would be charged with a crime, and that no charges would be issued against Blake.
Michael Graveley, the Kenosha County district attorney, told reporters at a news conference that his decision to not file any charges was based on evidence not captured by the graphic cellphone recording of the August shooting. The official further noted that if the matter went to trial, Sheskey could successfully make a case for self-defense, as Blake had a knife in his possession at the time.
"It's really evidence about the perspective of Officer Sheskey at each moment and what would a reasonable officer do at each moment," Gravely said. "Almost none of those things are answered in that deeply disturbing video that we’ve all seen.”
“Officer Sheskey felt he was about to be stabbed," he continued, before noting that the incident itself was also a tragedy for the Blake family and the community as a whole. Graveley also indicated the decision was personally difficult, as he has never experienced a moment in which he has had to “contend with explicit or implicit bias based on my race.”
The Blake family was informed of the decision prior to the announcement, according to Graveley.
Ben Crump, the legal representative for the Blake family, issued a statement following the announcement and called the decision a disappointment.
“This decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “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.”
Hints that charges would not be filed in the case emerged late Monday, when a state of emergency was declared in Kenosha and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized the deployment of the National Guard to ensure order and protect city infrastructure.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 5, 2021
The Blake shooting unfolded three months after the officer-involved death of Minnesota man George Floyd, and was similarly captured on bystander video.
The footage, filmed by Raysean White, showed Blake walking to the driver's side door of an SUV as officers followed closely behind with guns drawn and issued commands. It wasn't until Blake opened the door and leaned into the vehicle that Sheskey grabbed onto Blake and discharged his firearm. Blake’s young children were seated in the car at the time of the shooting.
Investigators later explained that officers had seen a knife in Blake’s possession, with Sheskey making the decision to fire his department-issued handgun after he noticed Blake turned toward the officer with the knife in hand. However, upon further examination it was unclear whether Blake had actually threatened anyone with the weapon, since none of the officers on the scene were equipped with body cameras.
Days after the shooting, Kenosha was propelled into the national spotlight as widespread protests erupted, and the incident became a topic of discussion for both US President Donald Trump and US President-elect Joe Biden. While Biden suggested charges against Sheskey appeared warranted, Trump sided with police and preached law and order.
Protests in the city subsequently turned deadly on the third night, when then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum with an assault rifle, also wounding Gaige Greusskreutz. The teen was later hit with homicide and attempted homicide charges, to which he pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. He is currently free on a $2 million bond and arguing that he acted in self-defense.
Since the events that unfolded in August, Blake has returned home after months of hospitalization and rehab. He is currently serving a two-year probation as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct.
As recently as December, Sheskey was still on administrative leave from the Kenosha Police Department over the shooting, according to the New York Times. Incidentally, the officer has been the subject of at least five internal investigations over the seven years he’s been with the force, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.