The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Oct. 8 closed a federal probe into the police shooting of a black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. No charges were filed.
Officials with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin made the decision “because the evidence obtained is insufficient to prove that the KPD officer willfully used excessive force,” the DOJ said in a statement.
Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times as he tried to enter a vehicle that contained several children.
Blake was accused of having sexual relations with a woman without her consent in May 2020. On Aug. 23, 2020, officers were called by the same woman, who said her boyfriend, Blake, was at a residence in Kenosha but wasn’t supposed to be there.
After officers arrived at the scene, they tried to arrest Blake, who refused to cooperate and attempted to escape in the vehicle. Sheskey then shot him to prevent him from leaving the scene.
Blake was armed with a knife.
The shooting left him partially paralyzed.
The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office decided in January not to charge Sheskey, saying it couldn’t be proven that the officers weren’t acting in self-defense. DOJ officials decided shortly after the shooting to open a federal civil rights investigation. But they also were unable to prove that Sheskey’s actions violated Blake’s constitutional rights, according to the update.
“Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an officer ‘willfully’ deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by the law. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation,” the DOJ said.
“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the KPD officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, the review of this incident has been closed without a federal prosecution.”
Officials reviewed evidence obtained by the FBI and state investigators.
A lawyer representing the Blake family didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Sheskey’s lawyer said in January that the officers who were on the scene “did an outstanding job under challenging circumstances,” adding that Sheskey “was presented with a difficult and dangerous situation and he acted appropriately and in accordance with his training.”