The DOJ said the evidence obtained by the FBI and state investigators is insufficient to prove that officer Rusten Sheskey “willfully” used excessive force when he shot 30-year-old Blake in August 2020.
Sheskey and other officers were responding to a call from a woman who reported that Blake was at her residence when he was not supposed to be and wouldn’t leave.
The police union at the time said that Blake had a knife and that the officers used their taser before deciding to fire at him. Brendan Matthews, the attorney representing Sheskey, told CNN in September 2020 that his client decided to use deadly force because he was concerned Blake would flee the scene with a kidnapped child.
Matthews said Sheskey heard a woman say “he’s got my kid. He’s got my keys,” and in the case that Sheskey allowed something to happen to the child the questions would have been “why didn’t you do something?”
“Nothing proved that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation,” the DOJ said in a statement on Friday as it backed its decision of not bringing charges against Sheskey.
A team of federal prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office reviewed the evidence to decide whether Shesky violated any federal laws, according to the DOJ. The team analyzed multiple materials including police reports, law enforcement accounts, witness statements, affidavits of witnesses.
They also analyzed dispatch logs, physical evidence reports, photos and videos that documented some parts of the incident.
The DOJ added that the team 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.”
In September 2020, Blake spoke publicly in a video posted on social media by his lawyer, Benjamin Crump, after the 30-year-old was shot. In the video, Blake described the pain he experienced due to his injuries, which left him paralyzed from the waist down and urged viewers to “change their lives.”
In January, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said that Sheskey will not be charged for the shooting. The officer was placed on administrative leave after the incident.
In deciding whether to charge Sheskey for the shooting, Graveley considered what a jury trial would look like and if he could prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Graveley saw that the only circumstance that could be disputed was whether Sheskey had the right to defend himself, with the question: “Did Officer Sheskey reasonably believe shooting at Jacob Blake was necessary to prevent being stabbed by him or necessary to prevent someone else being in immediate danger of death or bodily harm?”
In considering that question, Graveley said he did not believe the state could dismiss the right to self-defense which makes the District Attorney “ethically obligated” not to charge the case.
Newsweek contacted Blake’s attorney Benjamin Crump, Graveley, and Matthews for comments but did not receive a response before publication.