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Jacob Blake’s family, attorneys decry ‘gut-wrenching’ decision

“We believe that all the elements of attempted homicide were met,” B’Ivory LaMarr, one of Blake’s attorneys, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Flanked by family members and supporters Tuesday, Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, speaks to reporters after Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that no charges will be filed against the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake. Jacob Blake, 29, was leaning into an SUV on Aug. 23, 2020, when Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey opened fire, striking Blake in the back seven times.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

KENOSHA, Wis. — Relatives and supporters of Jacob Blake universally decried the Kenosha District Attorney’s Tuesday decision to not bring charges against the officer who shot Blake last year.

“We believe that all the elements of attempted homicide were met,” B’Ivory LaMarr, one of Blake’s attorneys, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “We believe that the city and the community is being deprived of their constitutional right to be able to be the trier of fact.”

An hour before LaMarr and others spoke, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey would not be charged in the August 2020 shooting that led to widespread looting in the southeastern Wisconsin city. Shortly after taking to the lectern, Graveley told members of the media that his explanation for the lack of charges would last two hours.

“We think that the 20-second video is very clear,” LaMarr said. “We don’t need a two-hour explanation for what our eyes can see. We’re immensely disappointed with that. It takes 20 seconds to watch that video to find probable cause, and it took them over four months to find a reason to ignore it.”

Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, said hearing the news of no criminal charges against Sheskey was “a gut-wrenching experience” that he likened to digesting “rocks and glass.”

Justin Blake urged those dissatisfied with Graveley’s decision to take to the streets in protest, and LaMarr said a civil lawsuit would likely be filed soon.

“It just shows that we have a lot of work to do,” LaMarr said. “We won’t stop, and it doesn’t stop here.”

After his and LaMarr’s press conference, Justin Blake led about 50 people on a short march along 52nd Street. At the march’s conclusion, Justin Blake told supporters: “We can get this right — know that. We just gotta continue to work together.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin also blasted Graveley’s decision as one that “continues the cycle of enabling police violence and evading accountability when they seriously injure and harm a Black person.”

“Kenosha has given another terrible example in a national pattern of police using excessive force against people of color during routine encounters, escalating situations instead of defusing them and then being given a pass,” Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement Tuesday.

Sheskey shot Blake seven times in the back on Aug. 23, paralyzing him from the waist down.

“His pain is just not in a good place,” Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, said Tuesday. “One out of every six days is good. He may have two to three good days in a month. ... He’s trying so hard, trying to be normal, but it ain’t working.”

Video footage of the shooting touched off violent protests that eventually led to the shooting deaths of two men by Kyle Rittenhouse, from Antioch. Rittenhouse, now 18, faces charges in Wisconsin that include intentional homicide. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.