The Kenosha City Council voted 17-0 last week to deny Jacob Blake up to $50,000 in damages after he was shot by police last year.
Blake was shot seven times on August 23 by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey who was responding to a domestic disturbance call. Blake was armed with a knife and attempting to get into the driver’s seat of an SUV when he was shot.
Blake’s attorney filed a request on March 11 seeking damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and trauma from disfigurement from the shooting. State law caps what a municipality can pay in such cases at $50,000, though Blake’s attorneys filed an itemized statement estimating costs from his injuries at a much higher $776,614.67, according to the Kenosha News.
The claim Blake filed could be the initial step of a lawsuit against the city for the $50,000 payout. Blake has already filed a federal lawsuit against Sheskey over the shooting. It is unclear whether Blake will file suit against the city, as well.
“The federal civil rights suit is being pursued, and the potential state claim, essentially the same cause of action with caps on damages, would be superfluous of it. We are considering options,” Blake’s legal team said in a statement.
In his suit against Sheskey, Blake argues that officers used excessive force and endangered the lives of his children, who were in the SUV at the time. As the Kenosha News reports:
Both the federal suit and police account have agreed upon facts, including that Blake was walking away from officers while carrying a knife and trying to get into the car while two officers, Sheskey among them, followed with guns drawn. Police have said that Blake did not follow orders and was climbing into the driver’s seat of the SUV and had quickly “twisted” toward them while holding a knife. The lawsuit, however, claims that Blake never threatened the officers.
Officers have been cleared of any potential misconduct in the Blake shooting and Sheskey resumed work for the Kenosha Police Department in March after being placed on administrative leave.
“The Kenosha Police use of force incident on August 23, 2020 was investigated by an outside agency; has been reviewed by an independent expert as well as the Kenosha County District Attorney. Officer Sheskey was not charged with any wrong doing,” Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said in a statement announcing Sheskey’s return to the force.
“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,” Miskinis continued.
“As of March 31, 2021, Officer Sheskey has returned from administrative leave. Although this incident has been reviewed on multiple levels, I know that some will not be pleased with the outcome; however, given the facts, the only lawful and appropriate decision was made,” he concluded.
Blake’s shooting last year sparked riots in Kenosha in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May. Damage from the riots cost residents and the city together millions of dollars.