MILWAUKEE – A black man who was paralyzed after a white police officer shot him in the back in southeastern Wisconsin filed a civil lawsuit Thursday accusing the officer of using excessive force.
Jacob Blake Jr. was shot by Kenosha officer Rusten Sheskey in August while Blake was about to get into a truck during a domestic dispute. Blake’s federal lawsuit against Sheskey, the only defendant, seeks unspecified damages.
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The Blake shooting, captured on passerby video, brought the nation’s spotlight in Wisconsin during a summer marked by protests of police brutality and racism. It happened three months after George Floyd died while being pinned down by police officers in Minneapolis. The white officer charged with murder and manslaughter in the Floyd murder is currently on trial.
Sheskey and two other Kenosha officers were trying to arrest Blake on an outstanding warrant when a razor fell out of his pants during a fight. Blake said he picked it up before heading to a vehicle to drive away with two of his children in the back seat. He said he was willing to give up once he put the knife in the vehicle.
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Sheskey told investigators that he feared for his own safety, so he opened fire. A Wisconsin prosecutor refused to press criminal charges against Sheskey, finding that he could not rebut the officer’s claim that he acted in self-defense because he thought the man would stab him.
The court documents do not include an attorney for Sheskey.
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The 18-page complaint includes photographs showing each of the seven shots fired by Sheskey. The officer held the cannon just a few feet from where Blake’s two young children were sitting, putting them in “imminent danger” of being hit by gunshots or ricocheting bullets, according to the complaint.
Sheskey’s actions were “undertaken with malice, stubbornness and reckless disregard for the rights” of Blake, according to the lawsuit.