Prosecutors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday decided not to file criminal charges against police officers in the August shooting of Jacob Blake.
The shooting of Blake prompted NBA players to protest by shutting down play for three days, with the WNBA and Major League Baseball also postponing games. Tuesday’s decision drew a response from the sports world as well, with the Milwaukee Bucks, NBA players LeBron James and Wesley Matthews, and the Marquette men’s basketball team among those calling for a continued push in the fight against racial injustice.
Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, on Aug. 23. Blake was left paralyzed. The shooting, which occurred in front of Blake’s three children and was captured on video, prompted large protests in Kenosha, with more than 250 people arrested during several days of unrest.
The other two police officers at the scene — Brittany Meronek and Vincent Arenas — also will not face charges, according to Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley.
Graveley said Tuesday he “would have to disprove the clear expression of these officers that they had to fire a weapon to defend themselves.”
“I do not believe the state … would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defense is not available,” added Graveley, who said he had informed Blake of the decision not to file charges.
Graveley said it is “incontrovertible” that Blake was armed with a “razor blade-type knife” when he was shot. Graveley said Blake had admitted to possessing the knife, but the prosecutor has no plans to charge him.
Ben Crump, an attorney for Blake’s family, expressed disappointment with the decision not to charge the police officers, saying it “further destroys trust in our justice system” and sends a message that it is OK for police to abuse their power. Crump said he would continue to move forward with a lawsuit and fight for systemic change in policing.
“We feel this decision failed not only Jacob and his family, but the community that protested and demanded justice,” Crump and his co-counsel said in a statement, adding: “We urge Americans to continue to raise their voices and demand change in peaceful and positive ways during this emotional time.”
In a later tweet, Crump also questioned whether Blake threatened Sheskey with a knife, saying, “Nowhere does the video footage show a knife extended and aimed to establish the requisite intent.”
The Bucks, whose refusal to take the court for a game against the Orlando Magic on Aug. 26 was the beginning of the three-day halt in the NBA while players discussed a response to the shooting, issued a statement Tuesday night.
“The Bucks organization remains firmly against excessive use of force by law enforcement,” the team said. “This past year shed light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American and other marginalized communities. Reoccurring instances of excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging the Black community must stop. We will continue to work to enact policy change so these incidents no longer exist. As an organization, we remain strongly committed to address issues of social injustice and anti-racism and to make meaningful change for African Americans and all marginalized members of our community.”
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