White police officer cleared in shooting of black man shot several times in back

A white police officer has been cleared in the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black father who was left paralysed from the waist down after the incident which sparked protests across the US.

Mr Blake was shot several times in the back at close range as he got into a car where his three young children were sitting on August 23, last year, in Kenosha.

County District Attorney Michael Graveley ruled police officer Rusten Sheskey acted in self defence, after officials said there was a knife in the car Mr Blake was trying to get into. The two other officers at the scene will also not face charges.

Mr Blake’s lawyers said their client had been attempting to break up a fight between two women when he was shot in front of his three sons, aged three, five and eight.

The decision sparked anger from lawyers representing Mr Blake and his family, saying the decision ‘further destroys trust in our justice system’.

They added in a statement: ‘This sends the wrong message to police officers throughout the country. It says it is okay for police to abuse their power and recklessly shoot their weapon, destroying the life of someone who was trying to protect his children.’

One of his lawyers, leading civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, vowed to continue investigations into the shooting, adding: ‘We must broaden the fight for justice on behalf of Jacob Blake and the countless other Black victims of racial injustice and police brutality.’

The shooting, which was captured on video by a bystander, sparked a wave of protests against racial inequalities and police brutality against Black people.

At least 250 people were arrested in the days that followed, including 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with fatally shooting two men and wounding a third. He yesterday denied murder.

Announcing the decision that no charges would be brought against officers in the shooting of Mr Blake, the district attorney said he ‘would have to disprove the clear expression of these officers that they had to fire a weapon to defend themselves’.

He added: ‘I do not believe the state… would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defence is not available.’

Mr Graveley said Mr Blake had resisted arrest after being tasered and refused police commands to drop a knife, which he said gave Officer Sheskey the right to self-defence.

The knife was not easily visible on the video of the shooting, nor did it show previous attempts to detain Mr Blake, who was wanted on a felony arrest warrant, as police were told before arriving on the scene, Mr Graveley said.

Mr Graveley said he informed Mr Blake of his decision before announcing it publicly. He called the incident a ‘tragedy’ for all involved.

One of Mr Blake’s lawyers, Mr Crump, wrote on Twitter: ‘We are immensely disappointed and feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice.

‘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.

‘We will continue to press forward with our own investigation and fight for systemic change in policing and transparency at all levels. We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time.’

Ahead of the announcement, the city braced for demonstrations with the courthouse erecting concrete barriers and metal fencing outside, while shops put up plywood coverings.

The shooting came just three months after the death of George Floyd, a Black father who was killed after a white police officer knelt on his neck for at least seven minutes, prompting a wave of protests calling for an end to systemic racism in the US and across the world.

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