MILWAUKEE – Jacob Blake has sued the Kenosha police officer who shot him in the back in August, which set off three days of violent and fatal protest in the city.
Blake, who is Black, was left paralyzed from the waist down. Rusten Sheskey, a white officer, was later cleared of any criminal conduct by Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley.
An investigation by the state Department of Justice found Blake was armed with a knife in the moments that led up to the shooting. Graveley said he could not disprove Sheskey’s claim that he feared for his life when he fired seven shots at Blake.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, Blake claims Sheskey’s use of deadly force was excessive, violated Blake’s rights under the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable seizure, and was done with “malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference” to Blake’s rights.
The suit also claims Sheskey and other officers did not sit for interviews by investigators until they “conferred extensively with attorneys and union representatives as to what the claimed justification would ultimately be” for the shooting.
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Meanwhile, the suit notes, investigators came to Blake’s bedside in intensive care within hours, while he was sedated and in “intractable pain.”
According to the investigation by the state Department of Justice, Sheskey fired seven shots at Blake as he was entering the driver’s side of an SUV, after repeatedly ignoring the commands of several officers who had their guns drawn.
According to the suit:
Blake had joined family and friends to celebrate his son’s eighth birthday on Aug. 23, at the home of the mother to at least one of Blake’s three children, at a residence in the 2800 block of 40th Street. After she got into an argument with a neighbor, Blake began to leave with two of his boys.
The mother called police and indicated Blake — who had a pending criminal case against him involving the same woman — was not supposed to be at her residence.
As Blake was putting his children into a Dodge SUV, Sheskey grabbed his arm without warning that Blake was being arrested. They tussled. Sheskey and other officers punched, choked and tased Blake, but he avoided being handcuffed.
Blake retrieved a folding knife he had dropped during the encounter, got up and began walking around the front of the vehicle. As he opened the driver’s door, the suit states, he threw the knife to the floor of the SUV as Sheskey pulled him backward by the shirt.
“Throughout the entire course of all seven shots being fired, Plaintiff BLAKE was moving away from – and not toward – Defendant SHESKEY into a seated position” in the SUV, the suit states.
Blake’s two sons, ages 8 and 5, were already in the backseat of the vehicle.
The complaint includes still photos taken from widely-seen bystander video of the encounter.
Blake’s suit states he was struck in his arms, back and left side by six of the seven shots Sheskey fired.
Blake is represented by Ben Crump, a Washington, D.C., civil rights lawyer who also represents the family of George Floyd, killed by police in Minneapolis in May; B’Ivory Lamarr of Houston; and the Chicago law firm Salvi, Scholstok & Pritchard.
Follow Bruce Vielmetti on Twitter: @ProofHearsay.