Jacob Blake, who was shot and paralyzed by a police officer in August, filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against officer Rusten Sheskey on allegations of excessive use of force. Sheskey, a white police officer, shot Blake, a Black man, on August 23 when responding to a complaint of “family trouble.” The shooting occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and was partially captured on video by a bystander.
The complaint alleges that Blake had been holding a utility knife but threw it on the floorboard of his SUV in a motion that was “fully visible” to Sheskey and the other officers on the scene. It further alleges that Blake had his left hand on the outside handle of the vehicle, “while his right hand and arm were visibly extended in plain sight” away from Sheskey. The complaint includes a number of video stills from the widely-circulated video by a bystander that show the positioning of Blake and the officers at the time of each shot.
According to the complaint, seven shots were fired by Sheskey, six of which “ripped into the arms, back and left side” of Blake. “At least one round fired by [Sheskey] ripped through the spinal column of [Blake], severing his spinal cord and instantly rendering his fully seated body limp upon impact.” The injuries have left Blake permanently paralyzed.
Although the complaint does not specify the amount of damages Blake is seeking, it does allege that Blake’s Fourth Amendment rights protect him against “the use of excessive and deadly force.” It asserts that Sheskey’s conduct was intentional, unreasonable, and malicious.
The district attorney of Kenosha County declined to press charges against Sheskey in January, and the other two officers involved in the shooting have since returned to work, although Sheskey has not. The shooting occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s death as another tense moment in a summer filled with unrest and protests against police brutality.