The Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake, already cleared of any state criminal offense, will not face any federal criminal civil rights violations either, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.
In a statement, DOJ said its review concluded there was insufficient evidence that Officer Rusten Sheskey “willfully used excessive force”
Sheskey fired seven rounds at Blake’s back on Aug. 23, 2020, as Blake entered an SUV to leave the scene of a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, after tussling with officers moments earlier and ignoring their commands.
The shooting, recorded by a neighbor, left Blake paralyzed and set off days of protests and fatal violence in Kenosha.
“Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an officer ‘willfully’ deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids,” the DOJ release states.
“This is the highest standard of intent imposed by the law. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.”
State authorities cleared Sheskey in January.
An investigation by the state Department of Justice found Blake, 30, was armed with a knife in the moments that led up to the shooting. Graveley said he could not disprove Sheskey’s claim that he feared for his life when he fired seven shots at Blake.
Blake sued Sheskey in federal court in March. The suit claims Sheskey’s use of deadly force was excessive, violated Blake’s rights under the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable seizure, and was done with “malice, willfulness, and reckless indifference” to Blake’s rights.
Sheskey did not face any internal discipline for the shooting, and returned to full duty in April.