Prosecutors in Wisconsin will not file charges against the police officer who shot and paralysed a black man this summer, which sparked fresh outrage amid widespread protests over racial injustice.
The shooting of Jacob Blake was caught on video and led to protests and some businesses being burnt in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August. It was part of the a nationwide reckoning on race that began in May in Minneapolis when a police officer killed George Floyd.
Kenosha district attorney Michael Graveley on Tuesday said Rusten Sheskey, the police officer who shot Mr Blake seven times, would not face any charges and that he could successfully argue self-defence at trial.
“An exhaustive investigation was done,” Mr Graveley said. “There’s more than 40 hours of squad video. There’s hundreds of pages of electronic information. There are almost 200 separate law enforcement reports.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the Blake family, said on Twitter that “we are immensely disappointed and feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family but the community that protested and demanded justice . . . We will continue to press forward with our own investigation and fight for systemic change in policing and transparency at all levels.”
Mr Graveley said several elements would support an argument of self-defence at trial, including that Mr Blake was armed with a knife and was not stopped by taser blasts. Police had been called because of a domestic argument, and there was a felony warrant for his arrest.
“Jacob Blake admits he possessed a knife,” Mr Graveley. “I know that knife is not easily visible in the video.”
Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin lieutenant governor, wrote on Twitter that the lack of charges was “another instance in a string of misapplications of justice”.
“It keeps happening, and there’s always a new excuse,” the Democrat added. “The non-prosecuting DAs are as negligent as the officers in these situations. What is video evidence anyway if they just watch it and interpret things other than reality?”
Wisconsin governor Tony Evers mobilised 500 National Guard troops on Monday to support Kenosha’s local law enforcement. Kenosha mayor John Antaramian also shut down some roads in the city on Monday in the run-up to the announcement of the lack of charges.
During the protests that followed Mr Blake’s shooting, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager from Illinois, shot and killed two protesters. On Tuesday he pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in connection with those shootings.