Justice Department Declines To File Charges Against Police Officer Who Shot Jacob Blake

The police officer who shot Wisconsin resident Jacob Blake will not be charged for violating Blake’s civil rights, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

In a press release issued Friday, the department said that after reviewing the case investigators from the agency’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee concluded there was “insufficient” evidence to prove that Kenosha Police Department Officer Rusten Shesky “willfully” used excessive force against Blake, who is black.

Blake, who was wanted on a felony warrant, was shot after resisting arrest in a domestic dispute. State prosecutors declined to charge Shesky after a video showed that Blake was armed with a knife. Still, Black LIves matter activists cited his shooting, which came three months after the death of George Floyd, as another instance of abuse of black men by police. 

The August 2020 shooting ignited several nights of protests, including some that turned into riots. During one night of unrest, an Illinois man who said he traveled to Kenosha to help protect property owners shot and killed two rioters. He has claimed he did so in self-defense.

The Justice Department did not comment directly on its findings.

In its statement, the agency said the “experienced” team of prosecutors looked at evidence obtained by the FBI and state investigators and conducted a “detailed and lengthy analysis of numerous materials” that included police reports, law enforcement accounts, witness statements, affidavits of witnesses, dispatch logs, physical evidence reports, photographs and videos of the incident.

“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,” the press release said.

“Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.”

“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.”

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