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DOJ: Jacob Blake had knife when officers tried to arrest him

Kenosha County District Attorney Mike Graveley called on the U.S. Attorney General to conduct the federal investigation.
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 6:15 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2020 at 8:01 PM CDT
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KENOSHA, Wis. (WBAY) - A man shot by a Kenosha police officer admitted he had a knife in his possession, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

According to a preliminary report from the DOJ, a woman called police Sunday evening saying her boyfriend was there and wasn’t supposed to be on the premises. The DOJ did not specify if Jacob Blake was the boyfriend.

After police responded to the call they tried to arrest Blake. One officer used a Taser but it didn’t stop Blake, who is seen on a bystander’s video walking away from officers and leaning into his SUV when he was shot by an officer from behind.

The DOJ identified the officer as Rusten Sheskey, a patrol officer and member of the Kenosha Police Department for seven years. It says he fired his service weapon seven times while grabbing Blake by the shirt. No other officers fired a weapon.

“There have been interviews conducted of material witnesses but the investigation remains ongoing,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul during a press conference on Wednesday in Kenosha.

The DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation into the officer-involved shooting. DCI agents found a knife on the driver’s side floor of Blake’s SUV and no other weapons.

“Under Wisconsin law, in a case where a person dies, where an officer fires their weapon, the law requires that an independent investigative agency be brought in to conduct the investigation,” said Kaul.

Blake survived the shooting. The family says he’s paralyzed from the waist down and may not walk again.

The DCI will present its findings to a prosecutor within 30 days to make a determination if criminal charges in the shooting are appropriate.

“When they (DCI) complete that investigation it’s turned over, again by statute, by law, to the local district attorney’s office and that will be our office,” said Kenosha County District Attorney, Mike Graveley.  “We are asked to review that independently garnered evidence and we are asked, are there any crimes that a police officer has committed that can be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt?  I need to let you know now, and the community know, that is the only question that the Kenosha District Attorney’s office will answer.”

The DCI says it’s receiving assistance from the FBI. The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed Wednesday night a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting is underway. The federal investigation will run parallel to the state investigation.

Graveley called on the U.S. Attorney General to conduct the federal investigation, which the DOJ confirmed Wednesday has been opened.

“That means we don’t have multiple decision points where there are more opportunities for people to be disappointed or enraged or for there to be unrest that is about decisions being made,” said Graveley.

The FBI also said federal authorities are addressing violence in Kenosha and that there could be prosecutions for rioting, arson, firearms offenses and other violent crimes.

The police shooting has triggered protests in Kenosha and around the state. Protests in Kenosha have been particularly violent, with three nights of arson, property destruction and clashes with police. Tuesday night, a young, white man fired at protesters, killing two and wounding one; a 17-year-old suspect is in custody facing homicide charges (see related story).

Authorities moved up the curfew in Kenosha to 7 P.M., and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has authorized sending 500 National Guard members to help first responders.

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