An example of a challenge coin distributed within the Kenosha Police Department following the unrest in August, 2020. (Photo | Kenosha Police Department)
The civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department and and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has closed its review of the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha officer last year. According to a press release, the evidence obtained was insufficient to prove Officer Rusten Shensky willfully used excessive force.
The release states that “a team of experienced federal prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office reviewed evidence obtained by the FBI and state investigators to determine whether the police officer violated any federal laws, focusing on the application of deprivation of rights under color of law, a federal criminal civil rights statute that prohibits certain types of official misconduct.”
The review included police reports, accounts from law enforcement, witness statements, affidavits of witnesses, dispatch logs, physical evidence reports, photographs, and videos depicting parts of the incident.
Officers were responding to a domestic violence call when they encountered Blake. Video that went viral online showed Shensky shooting Blake in the back multiple times as Blake got into his car. Blake’s children were in the back seat and although he survived the shooting, Blake was paralyzed. He continues to recover in rehab. Blake’s shooting triggered global attention, after protests filled the city followed by civil unrest. It took several days for the city to stabilize, after millions of dollars worth of damage was done, and two lives taken during clashes between armed right-wing groups and unarmed protesters.
The Justice Department states that insufficient evidence existed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Shensky willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes. “Accordingly,” the Department concludes, “the review of this incident has been closed without a federal prosecution.”
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