Rusten Sheskey, a Kenosha police officer who has worked as a bicycle officer and for a campus Police Department, was named by Wisconsin’s Attorney General as the officer who shot and seriously wounded Jacob Blake, a shooting that was captured on video and has led to arson fires and property damage in the southeastern Wisconsin community.
Wisconsin’s governor says Blake, 29, was shot “in the back multiple times.” A news release from the Wisconsin Department of Justice says that, “While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon seven times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon. Kenosha Police Department does not have body cameras, therefore the officers were not wearing body cameras.”
Sheskey has been an officer for seven years with the Kenosha PD. During the investigation, “Mr. Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession. DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s vehicle. There were no other weapons recovered,” the DOJ reported. The DCI (Department of Criminal Investigation with the Wisconsin Department of Justice) is continuing to review the case. A preliminary charging decision is expected to be made by the end of the day on August 27.
Governor Tony Evers previously released the injured man’s name, writing on Twitter:
…Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries. While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.
Sheskey, 31, fired the seven shots at close range into Blake’s back as Blake bent into a car, the graphic video shows. The August 23 video captures the sound of seven gunshots. It appears that the officer opens fire while holding the back of the man’s shirt. You can watch the video below, but be forewarned that it is very graphic. The shooting has led to days of Black Lives Matter demonstrations that escalated into multiple businesses being burned down, broken windows, and destroyed cars. In addition, people threw fireworks and bottles at police officers in riot gear. That culminated in a shooting that left two dead and another man wounded. The accused gunman was named as Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17 year old law enforcement and Blue Lives Matter supporter from Antioch, Illinois.
Jacob Blake’s father now says his son is paralyzed and it will take a miracle for him to walk again.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Graphic Video Shows the Shooting Happened at Very Close Rang
The video shows three officers, including Rusten Sheskey, standing with Blake before he walks away from them. Then, an officer with gun drawn follows Blake to the driver’s side of his car. There are multiple people in the area. A second officer is right behind Blake. Blake, who is Black, gets in the car. The officer, who appears to be white, at least from a distance, then appears to shoot multiple times into the door at Blake’s back.
Here’s a video from another vantage point. A woman named Chyna Smith posted it on Facebook and wrote, “He was just bbq for his son bday they shot an unarmed black man in front of his sons.”
The officer who fires appears to be grabbing Blake’s white shirt while firing, and it doesn’t look like Blake turned to face the officer. A second officer has his gun drawn.
A former Kenosha alderman, Kevin Mathewson, was one of those who shared the video on Facebook. You can also watch it here. “Kenosha Police Shooting man 7 times in back,” he wrote. “Why the f*** you shoot him that many times?” a man shouts at the officer in the video.
Here are some screenshots from the video.
In a statement posted to his Twitter page, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he is representing Blake’s family. His release says Blake is a “Black man who was shot in the back several times by Kenosha police.”
The statement says Blake “was helping to deescalate a domestic incident when police drew their weapons and tasered him. As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point blank range.”
2. Sheskey Worked as a Bicycle Officer & His Grandfather Worked for the City of Kenosha for Three Decades
Sheskey has served in the Kenosha police bike unit and was an officer with the department for 6.5 years when he gave an interview to a local newspaper about his job. He worked with the UW-Parkside Police department for three years before that, according to an article that interviewed him in The Kenosha News.
He said his grandfather worked for the city for 33 years. Sheskey said it was easier for people to talk to officers on bicycles. “It kind of takes the whole car away, obviously; you don’t have the windows rolled up. People wave us down for everything, from talking about their problems in the neighborhood to just to say hi and talk about the bikes. It definitely gets us out a lot more.”
He said he raced in high school and does mountain biking for fun. He told Kenosha News,
What I like most is that you’re dealing with people on perhaps the worst day of their lives and you can try and help them as much as you can and make that day a little bit better. And that, for the most part, people trust us to do that for them. And it’s a huge responsibility, and I really like trying to help the people. We may not be able to make a situation right, or better, but we can maybe make it a little easier for them to handle during that time. We’re in a public service job, a customer service job, and the public is our customer. I think that, especially with the officers that we have here, everybody strives to make sure that the public feels served and happy with the services they receive. A lot of officers go way out of their way to make sure that that’s done. … I think the KPD really embraces that.
Sheskey’s brother works as an education administrator.
A photo shared by WISN-TV and pictures on Facebook showed Blake with multiple children, and posts on Facebook indicated that he is a father. His attorney told CNN that his children, ages 3, 5 and 8, were in the car at the time of the shooting.
The Kenosha News also reported that the shooting occurred in front of the man’s children.
Crump confirmed that in his statement. “Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father,” he wrote. “His three sons witnessed their father collapse after being riddled with bullets. Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”
Governor Evers’ statement on Twitter continued:
We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country—lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites. I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long.
3. Sheskey Was an Officer at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Who Investigated a Hate Crime Incident
According to Sheskey’s LinkedIn page and an old newspaper article on him, he previously worked as a “CSO at University of Wisconsin-Parkside.” An old article in the Racine Journal-Times ran a photo of Sheskey, saying,
University police officer Rusten Sheskey is on duty in the lobby of the Pike River suites dormitory, as police are assigned to dorms, in response to three alleged hate crimes at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Thursday February 2, 2012. University authorities reported that a noose was found in a campus dorm, a second noose and a note that threatened the student who reported the noose, and fliers that named about a dozen African-American students and said they would die in two days
Kenosha police have released very few details about how the shooting unfolded. Here’s the full statement released by Kenosha police about the August 23 shooting:
At 5:11 p.m. Kenosha Police Officers were sent to the 2800 block of 40th Street for a domestic incident and were involved in an officer involved shooting.
Officers provided immediate aid to the person. The person was transported via Flight for Life to Froedtert Hospital, Milwaukee. The person is in serious condition.
Kenosha Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin State Patrol were requested immediately so that the scene could be turned over to an agency, other than Kenosha Police.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice (D.O.J.), Division of Criminal Investigation (D.C.I.) will be investigating this officer involved shooting. Further media releases will come directly from D.C.I. Inquiries should be directed to email@example.com
On August 24, police released a follow-up statement, but it didn’t say much else. The city declared a state of emergency and curfew.
The DOJ statement provided critical details for the first time, such as the contention that Blake had a knife.
4. Sheskey Shared Law Enforcement Memes on Social Media & a Flag With a Thin Blue Line
Sheskey has a Pinterest page with law enforcement quotes and memes. He has a privatized Instagram page with only a profile picture of a dog visible. On Facebook, the only post visible is an American flag with a thin blue line.
He has a YouTube channel with a few videos on it. One shows him doing a cold water challenge in Lake Michigan. Some of his workouts are posted online.
Here are some of the memes he shared.
Sheskey was engaged to be married in 2017, according to an online wedding registry website.
According to Wisconsin Circuit Court Access online records, a Jacob S. Blake, same age and with an address in the same block where the shooting occurred, had a warrant issued for him on July 7 on pending accusations of misdemeanor criminal trespass to a dwelling with domestic abuse as a modifier; felony third-degree sexual assault with domestic abuse as a modifier; and misdemeanor disorderly conduct with domestic abuse as a modifier. A support action was dismissed, and the only other case that comes up is for not having a driver’s license.
A 2015 story in Racine Eye described how “Racine police say K9 Dozer had to help officers take a man into custody when the man refused to go quietly into custody after he pulled a gun at a local bar.” The man was described as Jacob Blake, 24, of Racine, which makes him the same age as the man shot by police on August 23. The Racine Eye story said he was charged with “one felony count of resisting arrest causing a soft tissue injury to a police officer and one misdemeanor count each of carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, endangering safety-use of a dangerous weapon, and disorderly conduct.” Those charges don’t show up on the circuit court website though.
That story further alleged, “Blake and two women were at the Brass Monkey tavern, 1436 Junction Avenue, Saturday when Blake got into an argument with another patron and pulled a black handgun. Blake pointed the gun at the other man, and the magazine fell to the floor. The bartender told Blake to leave, and he did but then pointed the gun through the window at patrons inside the bar before walking south on Junction Avenue.”
Police stopped Blake in a “high risk traffic stop” but he “exited the SUV and started walking toward officers and ignored commands to get down on the ground,” the story said. That’s when officers forced him to the ground and used a K9 when he kept resisting, the story added.
5. People Put Sheskey’s Name on Kenosha Buildings With Spray Paint, Accusing Him of Causing the Unrest
Sheksey’s name was spray painted on several buildings.
According to the Kenosha News, neighbors said “police tasered and then shot a man several times.” The man and officers were not identified in the story.
The Kenosha News reported that neighbors said Blake was “trying to break up a fight between two women.”
In the wake of Blake’s shooting, outrage is erupting in the southeastern Wisconsin community, which is located in between Milwaukee and Chicago, and at least one officer was wounded.
There were reports that an officer was knocked out with a brick. More than 30 businesses were torched.
One of the people who died in the separate shooting Rittenhouse is accused of was named as Anthony Huber.