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Charging Decision Is Expected In Jacob Blake's Shooting

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In Kenosha, Wis., today, district attorney Michael Graveley announced he will not charge any of the Kenosha police officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake. Officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, seven times in the back. This was last August. Blake is now paralyzed from the waist down. Joining us now from Kenosha to talk about these latest developments is Wisconsin Public Radio's Corri Hess, who has been covering the story for months now.

Welcome.

CORRI HESS, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

CHANG: So can you just step back for us and remind us exactly what happened back in August?

HESS: Yes. Jacob Blake, who is a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha officer Rusten Sheskey while Sheskey and two other officers were trying to arrest him for an outstanding sexual assault warrant. Following that shooting, Kenosha erupted in days of protests, sometimes leading to violence. The protests to the shooting prompted right-wing backlash, with armed groups taking to the streets. On August 25, which was just two days after the shooting, a Illinois teenager named Kyle Rittenhouse shot three protesters, killing two of them.

CHANG: Right. And I understand that the district attorney today talked at length about the decision-making that went into this. He focused on self-defense, especially with respect to the officer who shot Blake. Can you just lay out, what did the DA say?

HESS: Well, DA Graveley said the officers felt a threat for their life because they claim that Blake was holding a knife. He claimed that the evidence isn't there to convict any of the officers involved, but race has loomed large throughout this. Graveley, who's white, commented on the role that race has had in the case.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL GRAVELEY: I have never in my life had a moment where I had to contend with explicit or implicit bias based on my race. I have never had a moment in my whole life where I had to fear for my safety with either police officers or individuals in authority.

CHANG: And in most states, I understand, you know, a decision to charge an officer would be made within weeks. Why did it take so long in this case to make this decision?

HESS: It has taken a long time. It's been five months. And that's due, in part, to another police shooting in Kenosha that happened 16 years ago. And that led to Wisconsin being one of the first states to require an independent investigation in cases like this.

CHANG: I see. Can you talk about how Blake's family has tried to navigate this whole ordeal? I mean, I understand that they have called for calm. They have asked people to protest peacefully, right?

HESS: Right. Blake's family has been pretty visible throughout this, especially his father and his uncle. They were out last night marching and saying that while they do want officer Sheskey charged with attempted murder, they do want Kenosha to remain peaceful.

CHANG: Now, Kenosha was rocked by days of unrest following the shooting. So in light of no charges being filed at this point, what precautions are being taken now in case there is more unrest?

HESS: In the city, the mayor and the police chief has - they've designated special areas where protests can be done. They've closed roads. They've talked about a curfew. And earlier this week, our governor, Tony Evers, have - he's mobilized about 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops to active duty in anticipation of any riots, protests or anything else.

CHANG: That is Wisconsin Public Radio's Corri Hess.

Thank you, Corri.

HESS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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