, , ,

Officer Who Shot Jacob Blake Was 7-Year Kenosha Police Veteran

Attorney General Releases New Details As Kenosha Braces For Fourth Night Of Protest

four people hold hands and raise their fists as they stand in the road
Four protesters stand in an intersection during a march Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Kenosha. Angela Major/WPR

One of the police officers involved in the stop that ended with the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha attempted to use a Taser to stop him from walking away, but it was unsuccessful, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said in a new statement Wednesday evening.

Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, told police he was in possession of a knife. It’s unclear whether officers thought the knife was on Blake’s person when he was shot.

The officer who shot Blake in the back seven times was Officer Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department, said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul in the statement and at a press conference in Kenosha.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Video of the incident circulated widely on social media and set off massive protests as well as vandalism and arson.

Overnight on Tuesday, authorities say Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, shot three protesters, killing two of them. Illinois authorities arrested Rittenhouse Wednesday on first-degree homicide charges. Authorities haven’t released the names of the victims, but said the two men killed were a 26-year-old Silver Lake resident and 36-year-old Kenosha resident. A 26-year-old West Allis man was also shot in the arm and is expected to recover.

Protesters gathered in Kenosha for a fourth night to decry Blake’s shooting, hours after Gov. Tony Evers announced an increased National Guard presence in the city. The increase to 500 troops in Kenosha comes after two protesters died in a shooting the night before.

Kaul said after the events of the last several days, community members “deserve to have the opportunity to grieve. They deserve to have the opportunity to come together, to protest peacefully, to call for the change that they would like to see and ultimately to work to heal this community.”

Josh Kaul speaks at a press conference in Kenosha.
Josh Kaul speaks at a press conference Wednesday evening in Kenosha. Corrine Hess, WPR

Kaul released other details from the investigation into the police shooting in his 6 p.m. press conference:

  • Police were called to a residence in the 2800 block of 40th Street by a woman who said her boyfriend wasn’t supposed to be there. Officers then attempted to arrest Blake.
  • Before the shooting, Blake told officers he had a knife in his possession. Agents later recovered the knife from the driver’s side floorboard of his vehicle. There were no other weapons in the car.
  • The state Division of Criminal Investigations is leading the investigation, assisted by the FBI and other agencies. They aim to provide a report of the incident to a prosecutor within 30 days.

Officers including Sheskey are on administrative leave, Kaul said.

Earlier on Wednesday, law enforcement agencies announced at a joint press conference on Wednesday that the curfew for the city had been pushed up to 7 p.m., and that officers would arrest anyone in violation.

a police officer in a bearcat
Police stop briefly in front of a crowd of protesters around 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, at Civic Center Park in Kenosha. Angela Major/WPR

At Kaul’s press conference, Kenosha Urban League President James Hall urged protesters to respect the curfew, “so that no one else gets hurt.”

“Right now, Kenosha is emotional,” Hall said. “Right now, the country is emotional. We cannot continue to meet force with force … Change is now. If Kenosha can make this change, the entire country will follow.”

Around 9 p.m., some protesters in Kenosha had been marching and chanting, defying the curfew, but there said there were few signs of police presence on the streets, and no signs of violence.

Sam Vong and his family have owned Madame Pho on Highway 50 and Interstate 94 for seven years. On Wednesday, they boarded up their windows before the city’s 7 p.m. curfew.

“For the first time ever, you feel like you live in fear in your own place,” Vong said. “I don’t know when it’s going to end. And I hope that it will end soon. We’re just waiting for someone to actually do something to actually help us as a small business.”

Vong said he doesn’t know exactly what happened between Blake and police, but he just wants to protect his family, employees and their customers.

“I wasn’t there, so I’m not sure what happened, but I feel like they were doing what they were trained to do,” Vong said. “Not all the people are bad and not all the people are good. It’s sad.”

kenosha, protests
A protester in Kenosha on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Angela Major/WPR 

Blake’s family and attorney said on Tuesday that the shooting has left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.

The response locally was swift, with protesters marching to the city’s downtown to decry the shooting that evening. The city has now had three straight nights of destruction and unrest, with police and National Guard troops repeatedly using pepper spray and tear gas on the crowds, and with dozens of vehicles and buildings vandalized or set ablaze.

The incident has led to widespread outcry beyond Kenosha as well, with demonstrations breaking out around the state and the nation. Protests have happened for three straight evenings in downtown Madison over the shooting, with another planned for Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday, the NBA called off playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court. Players had previously told reporters that teams were considering sitting out in protest. The Milwaukee Brewers also will not play the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park on Wednesday.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to point out it’s unclear whether officers thought the knife was on Blake’s person when he was shot. Erik Lorenzsonn, Rob Mentzer, Madeline Fox and Corri Hess contributed reporting.