The white Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake multiple times in the back, partially paralyzing him, has been identified by state authorities.
Rusten Sheskey is accused of firing seven shots into Blake, 29, during the near-fatal police shooting in Kenosha on Sunday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice confirmed on Wednesday.
Sheskey and two other officers have been placed on administrative leave, officials said. Sheskey is the only one who fired shots, police said. He’s is a seven-year veteran of Kenosha Police Department.
The U.S. Justice Department has since announced a civil rights investigation into the police shooting of Blake.
In cell phone footage of the encounter, Sheskey can be seen grabbing Blake’s shirt moments before pumping several rounds into his back. Blake appeared to open the door and lean into the driver’s side entrance of his vehicle at the time shots rang out.
One bullet struck Blake’s spinal cord, paralyzing him from the waist down, his family said earlier this week. Blake was also tased in the incident. He remains hospitalized.
City police initially confronted Blake after a “female caller reported that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises,” the Wisconsin Department of Justice said. Officers unsuccessfully tried to arrest Blake, including using a taser on him, before Sheskey shot him as he opened his vehicle door and leaned in, state officials said.
Blake was unarmed at the time he was shot, however authorities said they later found a knife in the driver’s side floorboard of Blake’s vehicle. He allegedly admitted to police he was in possession of the blade. No other weapons were seized and state officials have not alleged that Blake threatened anyone with the knife.
Blake “did nothing to provoke police,” attorney Ben Crump said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com Thursday, adding the 29-year-old was “only intending to get his children out of a volatile situation.”
Gaining a more definitive version of events surrounding the shooting may be difficult as the Kenosha Police Department does not use body cameras, according to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Blake’s three children, aged 3, 5, and 8, were mere feet away at the time their father was shot. They had been celebrating a birthday prior to police arriving.
“These little boys, these three little boys, are going to have psychological problems for the rest of their life,” Crump said. “Can you imagine what his 8-year-old son who was celebrating his birthday is going to think about every time he has his birthday.
The police shooting has unleashed mass protests — some of which have descended into violence — in Kenosha. Video circulating on social media showed protesters, some reportedly armed with bottles, fireworks, and bricks, squaring off with police in riot gear who deployed tear gas on the demonstrators. A citywide curfew has been in place since Sunday. On Wednesday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized the deployment of 500 National Guard service members to the embattled city.
Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old from Illinois, is accused of shooting three protesters, killing two, Tuesday evening after showing up in the city armed with a semi-automatic rifle on Tuesday. He was arrested the following day on first-degree intentional homicide charges. The teen is allegedly linked with a pro-gun vigilante group who sought to be deputized by police as tensions rapidly escalated in the Wisconsin city.
Blake’s mother, meanwhile, urged calm amidst the chaos.
“Let’s begin to pray for healing for our nation,” Julia Jackson said in a statement. “To all of the police officers, I’m praying for you and your families. To all of the citizens, my Black and Brown sisters and brothers, I’m praying for you.”
Blake’s shooting has also prompted the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks to boycott Game 5 of its playoff series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. The NBA postponed its full slate of games as a result. The Women’s National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer also postponed games.
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