March 26 (UPI) — The attorneys of Jacob Blake, a black man who was left paralyzed after being shot by a White police officer last summer, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officer accusing him of using excessive force.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by civil rights attorney Ben Crump in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, accuses Officer Rusten Sheskey of shooting Blake six times at point blank range without cause.
“Nothing can undo this tragedy or take away the suffering endured by Jacob, his children and the rest of the Blake family,” Crump said in a statement emailed to UPI. “But hopefully today is a significant step in achieving justice for them and holding officer Sheskey answerable for his nearly deadly actions — actions that have deprived Jacob of his ability to walk.”
Blake was shot in the back by Sheskey on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wis., leaving him paralyzed and sparking further protests against racial inequality that began after the Memorial Day police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
According to the lawsuit, Blake was in attendance at a friend’s gathering where a dispute broke out between the mother of one of his children and another women, and he decided to leave with his two sons.
Sheskey and other officers responding to a domestic incident call approached Blake as he attempted to leave with his children in the back of an SUV and “in the absence of any verbal command,” Sheskey grabbed Blake’s wrist in an attempt to detain him, the lawsuit states.
Blake resisted believing he was being attacked resulting in Sheskey and the other officers putting Blake in “a headlock, punching and choking him and shocking him with a taser on three occasions,” according to the court document.
The lawyers allege that Blake then picked up a folding knife he had earlier dropped and walked away from the officers to the driver-side door of his vehicle. The lawsuit notes that Blake neither ran from the officers, verbally threatened them, pointed the knife at them or attempted to strike them.
As Blake attempted to enter the driver-side of the vehicle, Sheskey grabbed him by his t-shirt and pulled him backward as he dropped the knife to the vehicle’s floorboards, according to the lawsuit.
“After plaintiff Blake had thrown the knife to the floor in full view of defendant Sheskey, defendant Sheskey continued to pull back on the t-shirt of plaintiff Blake with one hand and fired his semi-automatic pistol with the other,” the lawyers said in the lawsuit.
As he was being shot in close proximity to multiple civilians including Blake’s two children in the back seat, Blake was continuously moving away from the officers further into the vehicle.
While firing on Blake, Sheskey “held the muzzle of his weapon only a few feet away from where plaintiff Blake’s two young children sat, placing them in imminent danger from being hit by gunfire and/or ricocheting bullets or fragments,” the document said.
The bullets fired, it continued, were hollow point and designed to cause “the maximum amount of damage to bone and tissues.”
“The fusillade of bullets that defendant Sheskey fired into the body of plaintiff Blake caused catastrophic injury and paralysis,” the document said.
The lawsuit demands a trial by jury as Blake’s lawyers seek compensation to be decided by the court.
“While Jacob Blake survived being shot six times, his devastating injuries are permanent and life-changing,” Patrick A. Salvi II of Blake’s legal defense said. “After various surgical procedures and an agonizing course of physical rehabilitation, Jacob remains unable to return to his job as a security guard and relies on others to assist him with the basic needs of daily life.”
The lawsuit was filed after the Kenosha County district attorney declined in early January to charge Sheskey for shooting Blake.
After the shooting, protests broke out in Kenosha and on Aug. 25 two people were fatally shot. Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, has been indicted as an adult on charges including first degree homicide and first-degree reckless homicide for killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26.