The Kenosha Police officer who shot Jacob Blake was suspended for three days by the Police Department after the gun he was issued following the Blake shooting was stolen, a Milwaukee TV station is reporting.
Officer Rusten Sheskey, who was cleared of criminal wrongdoing for the Blake shooting by Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley, returned to work with the department on March 31, but he has not returned to patrol. Sheskey had been placed on administrative leave immediately after the Aug. 23 shooting.
After the Blake shooting, Sheskey’s service weapon was turned in as part of the investigation into the shooting that was conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation. Sheskey was issued a new gun, which Pete Deates — a Kenosha Police detective who is president of the union representing Kenosha Police officers — said is standard procedure for the department when a service weapon is taken as evidence.
However, that new weapon was stolen from Sheskey’s girlfriend’s car in September, according to documents obtained by WISN TV. Those documents stated that Sheskey thought the vehicle was locked the night the gun was stolen from the glovebox in the girlfriend’s vehicle.
The Kenosha Police Department has repeatedly issued warnings to the public in the past about leaving guns in unlocked vehicles, warning that guns stolen from parked cars are a significant source of illegal guns used in crime.
The incident was investigated after Sheskey returned to work, and he waived his right to a hearing by the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission. Sheskey received a three-day suspension without pay in April for not securing the weapon properly, according to WISN.
The gun has not been recovered.
According to WISN, the report on the theft states in part “the circumstances that led to your action were taken into account, and although they mitigate the matter to some degree, they do not provide exemption from policy or justify the lack of appropriate security and control of the handgun.”
Deates said suspension without pay is a typical discipline for officers who have equipment, including firearms, stolen.
“There’s a lot of circumstances that were surrounding this,” Deates said. “He was receiving death threats, he had to move out of his house, he was staying at different places on different nights. It’s an unfortunate thing to happen. I know everyone regrets that it happened, but it’s an unfortunate thing that happened in the middle of a very scrutinized incident.”
Sheskey reported the gun stolen to the Racine Police Department on Sept. 16. According to the police report, he told the officer he had last seen the gun, a fully loaded Glock 17, the previous day when it was left in the glovebox of his girlfriend’s car, which was parked on the street in Racine. The report states that Sheskey told the Racine Police officer at 2:50 a.m. on Sept. 16 that his girlfriend noticed that papers were thrown on the front seat and that he told his girlfriend to check the glovebox for the gun. That’s when they realized it was missing.
The police report states that there was no sign of forced entry.
In the internal investigation report from the Kenosha Police Department, Sheskey said he had a secure location to keep his guns at his Kenosha home, but after he left home following the Blake shooting, he began storing the gun in the glovebox of his vehicle or his girlfriend’s vehicle. The report states that Sheskey realized on Sept. 15 after the gun was stolen that both the glovebox and the vehicle where the gun had been stored were left unlocked.
“I asked Sheskey if, in his opinion, storing a Kenosha Police firearm in the glovebox of a motor vehicle was a suitable place for storage. Sheskey replied that it was not and in hindsight what he should have done was buy a locked storage container for his firearms when he moved,” the internal report states.
Sheskey shot Blake after arriving with other officers to a call about a domestic disturbance between Blake and the mother of his children. Police attempted to take Blake into custody on an outstanding warrant for a charge involving the same woman. After struggling with police, Blake was attempting to get into an SUV where his children were waiting when Sheskey, who was attempting to stop him from getting into the vehicle, fired his weapon. Blake, 30, was shot seven times. He survived but was left paralyzed.
The Aug. 23 shooting came at a time when people around the United States and the world were calling for police reform following a series of deaths of Black men and women during interactions with police, including widespread Black Lives Matter protests following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Captured by a bystander’s video and widely shared on social media, Blake’s shooting turned the focus of the movement to Kenosha and led to protest and days of rioting in the city.
Graveley announced in January that after the state investigation and a review by an independent use-of-force expert, he would not charge Sheskey for the Blake shooting. During a press conference explaining his decision, Graveley said the investigation found that Blake was armed with a knife and had twisted toward Sheskey with the knife when the officer fired his weapon. Blake has disputed that narrative.
Sheskey remained on administrative leave after Graveley’s announcement while police conducted an internal investigation into whether the officer violated department policy. Chief Daniel Miskinis, who retired Friday, announced earlier this month that Sheskey had returned to work.
“Officer Sheskey was not charged with any wrongdoing,” Miskinis said in a two-paragraph statement on Sheskey’s return. “He acted within the law and was consistent with training. This incident was also reviewed internally. Officer Sheskey was found to have been acting within policy and will not be subjected to discipline.”
‘Salt on the wound’
Local civil rights leaders and the Blake family have protested Sheskey’s return to work and continue to call for his firing. In a protest last weekend, three people, including Blake’s uncle Justin Blake, were arrested during a sit-in outside the Kenosha Public Safety building.
Justin Blake said Friday that the Blake family continues to seek Sheskey’s dismissal, saying he does not believe the African-American community can trust department and city leaders while he remains on the police force.
“He should not be policing any community, most certainly not the African-American community,” Justin Blake said. “It’s like putting salt on the wound.”
Justin Blake also decried the city’s lack of action on civil rights issues since the shooting.
“They put together all these committees, and nothing has come of it,” he said. “If you don’t see anything moving forward in seven or eight months, then they are just using you (members of committees) as a pawn to act like they are doing something.”
A federal lawsuit filed against Sheskey by Blake is ongoing.
Sheskey was hired by the Kenosha Police Department in 2013, coming to the department from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Police Department. At KPD, he worked as a second-shift patrol officer and on the department’s bicycle patrol.