Jacob Blake is taking legal action against the police officer who shot him in the back seven times last summer in Kenosha, Wis., paralyzing the 29-year-old Black man.
Blake’s attorneys in the case, Ben Crump, Patrick A. Salvi and B’Ivory LaMarr, announced on Thursday that they had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey on behalf of Blake.
“The path to ending police brutality is a long and grinding one,” said Crump. “But the fight for systemic change in policing and transparency—for justice—can only happen with accountability. And that is what we hope to achieve with this filing.”
Sheskey shot Blake multiple times in August of last year, while the 29-year-old was attempting to get into a car where his children were seated, in a bid to leave a birthday party for his son where a dispute had started. The mother of Blake’s children had called the police to report that he was trying to leave with her vehicle.
The complaint filed against Sheskey alleges that Blake made no physical or verbal threats toward any of the responding officers, and tried to disengage after being forcibly taken to the ground by them. The filing notes that a video of the encounter shows that Blake had a folding knife in his possession at the time, but never brandished or threatened to use the weapon at any time.
Kenosha’s District Attorney Michael Gravely announced in January that no charges would be made against the officer for shooting Blake, as it could be argued that the cop fired into the man’s back multiple times in self-defense out of fear of the knife.
However, Blake’s lawyers say that though their client had dropped his folding knife to the floor of his SUV, Sheskey went on to fire at Blake with one hand while holding onto his shirt with the other.
Blake’s five-year-old and eight-year-old children were in the vehicle at the time. The complaint says one or more of the shots fired by Sheskey severed Blake’s spinal cord, while another fired into the side door of the vehicle where the children were seated.
“Although Jacob’s children escaped physical injury and avoided being hit by the stray bullet that fired into the SUV, they were forced to witness their father being gunned down only feet away from where they sat,” said LaMarr, one of the attorneys representing Blake in the lawsuit.
The police shooting of Blake at the time set off protests in Kenosha, where Kyle Rittenhouse traveled to from Illinois and allegedly used a rifle to fatally shoot two people present at the demonstrations. Rittenhouse is awaiting trial in that incident. He has also claimed self-defense.
The lawsuit against Sheskey seeks unspecified compensation for Blake’s injuries, punitive damages, legal fees “and such other relief as is just and equitable,” reports the New York Times.
Sheskey and his lawyer have yet to respond to the news of the suit.