Jan. 6 (UPI) — The Kenosha County, Wis., district attorney on Tuesday declined to charge police officer Rusten Sheskey for the shooting of Jacob Blake, an incident that sparked deadly protests over the summer.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who survived the shooting but was paralyzed from the waist down, also will not face charges in the incident. Two other officers involved in the shooting — Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek — also won’t be charged.
“It is my decision now that no Kenosha law enforcement officer will be charged with any criminal offense based on the facts and laws,” District Attorney Michael Graveley said during a news conference announcing the decision.
Sheskey, a White police officer, shot Blake in the back on Aug. 23 after authorities were called to a residence for what they described as a domestic incident. Officials said the female caller described Blake as her boyfriend and said he’d taken her keys and refused to return them. She also allegedly said he wasn’t allowed at the residence.
Witnesses said Blake tried to intervene with a group of women who were arguing outside the residence when police arrived.
Police then used Tasers on him, but he allegedly fought with police, causing them to draw their guns. On a bystander video, Blake can be seen attempting to enter the driver’s side of his vehicle when Sheskey grabbed the back of his shirt, firing seven times.
Blake’s three children were in the vehicle at the time of the shooting.
Officials said a knife was found on the floorboard of Blake’s vehicle and one of the bystanders who filmed the encounter said he heard officers repeatedly yell “Drop the knife!”
Also Tuesday, Kyle Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to all charges tied to the fatal shooting of two men during Aug. 25 protests in response to the Blake shooting.
Rittenhouse, an Illinois teenager, now 18, appeared before Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner Loren Keating remotely through video link from his attorney Mark Richards’ office to plead not guilty to all charges against him
Rittenhouse initially faced the homicide charges at age 17 after fatally shooting two men, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, during the anti-racism and police brutality protests. Rittenhouse also shot protester Gaige Grosskreutz, 22, who was injured.
Richards has said his client, who wielded an AR-15 style rifle at the protest, acted in self-defense. During a hearing, he showed a photo of a person he said knocked Rittenhouse to the ground after the first shooting, and another photo of Huber approaching the Illinois teenager holding a skateboard.
Along with pleading not guilty to first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Rosenbaum, he also pleaded not guilty to four other felony charges. Among them, a charge of first-degree reckless homicide of Huber, attempted first-degree intentional reckless homicide of Grosskreutz, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety for shots fired at others.
Rittenhouse also pleaded not guilty to being a minor in possession of a firearm, and a charge of violation of curfew the night of the shooting, which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported was added last week.
In November, Rittenhouse posted $2 million bail and was released from jail.