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Prosecutor: No Charges Will Be Filed Against Officer Who Shot Jacob Blake


Let's work our way slowly through the facts from Kenosha, Wis. The district attorney there announced yesterday he will not file charges against the officer who shot Jacob Blake. Video from last summer shows Blake, a Black man, climbing into a car at the end of a dispute when white officer Rusten Sheskey grabs his shirt and fires seven times. Blake was paralyzed. Joining us from Kenosha is NPR's David Schaper, following the story of no charges. Hey there, David.


INSKEEP: Why would the prosecutor not file charges here?

SCHAPER: Well, District Attorney Mike Graveley said - first of all, he noted that this decision could spark outrage and protests, as we saw last summer. And so he went to great lengths to demonstrate why he couldn't charge Officer Sheskey or any other officer that was on the scene of the shooting. And he spent more than two hours detailing the investigation and all the evidence. And Graveley said this is essentially why he did all that.


MIKE GRAVELEY: Everybody has seen the video. And so from their perspective, they have tried this case at their computer screen or in their living room. As a professional, I am called upon to talk about how to try this case in a real courtroom.

SCHAPER: Essentially, Graveley says that that means he's got to consider all the evidence not seen in that short 20-second video snippet that he has to present to a jury.

INSKEEP: OK, he's right. He's absolutely correct that video often doesn't capture everything, but I just watched the video again. I mean, you have a man who's moving away from the officer, climbing into a car. His shirt is stretching as the officer grabs it, and then the officer fires, although granted, the car door is sort of in the way. What does the video not show?

SCHAPER: Well, what you're not seeing there is that you can actually see in the video - it appears that Jacob Blake has something in his hand. You can't really tell what it is. What Graveley says Blake is holding is a small knife. And you can also not see - because another officer is in the picture and obscuring him, and the car door's in the way - that he apparently turns back towards the officer who is tugging at his shirt. And so this is why Graveley says that the officer, Sheskey, feared for his life, that Jacob Blake was going to stab him. And so he says this case is really all about self-defense and whether or not he can prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer was not fearing for his life and that he did not shoot Blake in self-defense.

INSKEEP: Has Jacob Blake or his family, have they said anything?

SCHAPER: Well, Blake's father, Jacob Blake Sr., says he's not surprised by the decision. This is kind of what's been happening all over the country, and he was outraged. At a news conference in Chicago with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and others at Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Blake sharply criticized the prosecutor's two-hour-long justification for not charging the police officer.


JACOB BLAKE SR: I don't care how long you talk in front of a microphone. There's no justification for what was done to my son.

SCHAPER: Blake Sr. says his 29-year-old son remains paralyzed from the waist down and is in constant pain, and other family members are going to be - led the protest here in Kenosha last night and said that they'll go to Washington in coming weeks to push for police reform legislation.

INSKEEP: What was it like to be among those protesters last night?

SCHAPER: It was a pretty small group, but they were loud. They were boisterous. They were angry and frustrated by this decision to not file charges. They say that they will continue to make their voices heard until they see some real change in policing.

INSKEEP: NPR's David Schaper, thanks so much.

SCHAPER: My pleasure, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.