Jacob Blake: No charges against white Wisconsin officer who shot black man

Jacob Blake's father wearing a mask in support of his son. Credit: AP

A Wisconsin prosecutor has announced he will not file criminal charges against a white police officer who shot a black man in the back in Kenosha last summer, leaving him paralyzed and setting off sometimes violent protests in the city. Officer Rusten Sheskey’s shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23, captured on video, turned the nation’s spotlight on Wisconsin during a summer marked by protests over police brutality and racism.

More than 250 people were arrested in the days that followed, including then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a self-styled medic with an assault rifle who is charged in the fatal shootings of two men and the wounding of a third.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said on Tuesday that he “would have to disprove the clear expression of these officers that they had to fire a weapon to defend themselves.” He added: “I do not believe the state... would be able to prove that the privilege of self-defense is not available.”

Kyle Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty. Credit: AP

Rittenhouse, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty to charges including intentional homicide.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, entered his plea in a brief hearing conducted by teleconference.

Prosecutors say Rittenhouse, who is white, left his home in Antioch, Illinois, and travelled to Kenosha after learning of a call to protect businesses in the wake of the Blake police shooting.

Blake, a black man, was shot seven times in the back and left paralysed.

Rittenhouse opened fire with an assault-style rifle during protests two nights later, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz.

Rittenhouse has argued he fired in self-defence.

Conservatives have rallied around Rittenhouse, describing him as a patriot who took up arms to protect people and property, and raised enough money to make his bail.

Others see him as a domestic terrorist whose presence with a rifle incited protesters. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings.

The Blake shooting happened three months after George Floyd died while being restrained by police officers in Minneapolis, which also was captured on bystander video and which sparked outrage and protests that spread across the United States and beyond.

The galvanised Black Lives Matter movement put a spotlight on inequitable policing and became a fault line in politics, with President Donald Trump criticising protesters and aggressively pressing a law-and-order message that he sought to capitalise on in Wisconsin and other swing states.