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Jacob Blake sues Kenosha police officer who shot him, alleging excessive force

Family members and supporters of Jacob Blake hold a news conference in Kenosha, Wis., on Jan. 5, 2021, after an announcement by Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley that no charges would be filed against Officer Rusten Sheskey in the Aug. 23, 2020, shooting of Blake. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Jacob Blake, the Black man who was partially paralyzed after he was shot seven times in the back by a White police officer in Kenosha, Wis., last summer, is suing the officer on a claim of excessive force, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

In a complaint filed Thursday in federal court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Blake, 29, alleges that Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, who was not criminally charged in the shooting, violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable seizure with “malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference” when the officer fired seven shots. The shooting, captured by cameras at the scene, sparked unrest across Wisconsin months after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis.

Sheskey, 31, remains on administrative leave pending a review of his use of force, the police department confirmed to The Washington Post on Friday. Prosecutors declined to seek criminal charges for the officers involved in January, with Kenosha County District Attorney Michael D. Graveley saying he could not disprove Sheskey’s claim that he had acted in self-defense when he shot Blake.

Brendan P. Matthews, a lawyer representing Sheskey and the local police union, the Kenosha Professional Police Association, has previously argued that the officer acted lawfully in response to Blake’s actions. He alleged that Blake had refused to release a knife.

“None of the officers involved wished for things to transpire the way it did,” Matthews previously told The Washington Post. He did not respond to requests from The Post for comment about Thursday’s filing.

In a statement, Blake’s lawyers said that the shooting not only deprived Blake of the ability to walk, but that it also scarred his children who witnessed the shooting happen.

“Miraculously, no bystanders were hit by gunfire,” attorney B’Ivory LaMarr wrote. “Although Jacob’s children escaped physical injury and avoided being hit by the stray bullet that fired into the SUV, they were forced to witness their father being gunned down only feet away from where they sat.”

No charges to be filed against Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake

Attorneys for Blake said that he was gathering with friends and family members to celebrate his son’s eighth birthday on Aug. 23, 2020, when officers responding to a domestic dispute tried to arrest him for an outstanding warrant, putting him in a headlock and using a Taser on him. Instead of lashing out at officers, the complaint says, Blake had picked up his knife that fell during the scuffle with officers and walked to his car.

Sheskey and other officers followed Blake with their guns drawn, and when Blake dropped the knife into the car, Sheskey, pulling Blake toward him by his shirt, shot him at point-blank range, according to the complaint.

Jacob Blake is no longer handcuffed in Wisconsin hospital, attorney says

The 19-page complaint was filed by Blake’s lawyers, including Ben Crump, a high-profile civil rights attorney who also is representing the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others killed or injured by police. Blake’s attorneys allege that Sheskey did not identify himself at first and shot Blake in proximity to his children — ages 5 and 8 — who were in the back seat of his SUV.

The attorneys say that Blake was not threatening Sheskey as he tried to disengage from the police. Using stills from video taken of the shooting by a bystander, Blake’s attorneys argue that he was moving away from Sheskey, pointing to Blake’s T-shirt stretching in the officer’s grasp.

The suit also claims that Sheskey and other officers were not interviewed by investigators until they had conferred with attorneys and union representatives, and that their statements were not recorded or made under oath. In comparison, Blake spoke to investigators hours after the shooting while he was in intensive care and “heavily sedated and in intractable pain,” his attorneys wrote.

Blake “suffered grave physical and psychological injuries that included physical harm from six gunshot wounds, permanent paralysis, disfigurement and disability, as well as great mental anguish, humiliation, degradation, loss of reputation and anxiety,” his lawyers wrote.

Blake’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as “a substantial sum in punitive damages,” costs and legal fees.

Read more here:

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