Justice Department closes review of Jacob Blake shooting

By: - October 11, 2021 5:00 am
An example of a challenge coin distributed within the Kenosha Police Department following the unrest in August, 2020. (Photo | Kenosha Police Department)

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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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.