Before he was identified as the police officer captured in a viral video in which he shoots a Black man multiple times in the back, Rusten Sheskey pedaled around the lakeside city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, as part of the bike patrol and walked the shopping mall beat during the holidays.
He’d occasionally bring a squad car home from work and turn on the siren for neighborhood kids, one neighbor recalled. An American flag flies outside his home in a middle-class neighborhood.
But five days after Sheskey’s shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake prompted protests and rioting in the typically quiet streets of Kenosha, much remains unknown about the seven-year veteran officer and what prompted him to open fire.
Authorities have declined to provide information on a number of critical questions in the turbulent days since Blake was shot. Most importantly, they have not offered any detailed explanation for why Sheskey used deadly force on Blake as he leaned into a parked car.
Police and city officials also have not responded to public records requests for Sheskey’s history with the department, including any previous uses of force or disciplinary issues. According to a memo from the police chief published on the city’s website, Sheskey received a one-day suspension in 2017 for a violation regarding “safe operation of department vehicles.”
Meanwhile, Blake remains handcuffed to a hospital bed. He was left paralyzed from the waist down in the aftermath of the shooting, which took place in front of three of his young children who were in the car.
Dispatch records indicate that Sheskey and other officers responded to a complaint from a woman saying that Blake was not supposed to be at her residence and would not leave. She also said he had taken her keys and would not give them back.
At a news conference Wednesday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said officers fired a Taser at Blake before the shooting, but that it was “not successful.” Kaul said Blake admitted possessing a knife and officers recovered one from the floor of the car he was leaning into when Sheskey opened fire. Kaul did not say if Blake had brandished the weapon or what precise reason Sheskey gave for firing multiple shots.
Blake’s family has demanded answers, too, wondering why Sheskey decided to use a gun to resolve the situation. At a news conference on Tuesday, Blake’s family attorney Ben Crump called for the officer’s arrest.
“We are demanding that the prosecutor arrest the officer who shot Jacob Blake. And we are also asking that these officers who violated the policies and their training be terminated immediately,” he said.
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Hear more from the Wisconsin attorney general on the investigation: