Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey fired seven shots at Jacob Blake because he believed Blake was trying to kidnap a child in the backseat of a vehicle and was wielding a knife, Sheskey’s attorney told CNN.
The cable news outlet’s interview with attorney Brendan Matthews provided a closer explanation of Sheskey’s decision-making in the Aug. 23 shooting that paralyzed Blake from the waist down, led to days of protests and destructive unrest in Kenosha and sparked a national outcry about police violence.
Matthews declined an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday.
Blake “held a knife in his hand and twisted his body toward” Sheskey immediately before Sheskey opened fire, according to the CNN report of Matthews’ account.
And as Sheskey was arriving at the scene, he heard a woman say, “He’s got my kid. He’s got my keys,” Matthews told CNN.
According to emergency radio traffic, Kenosha police officers were dispatched to 2805 40th St. for a report of “family trouble.” A dispatcher told officers that a woman called for police and said that “Jacob Blake isn’t supposed to be there and he took the complainant’s keys and is refusing to give them back.”
According to Matthews, “Sheskey watched Blake put one child in the car as he arrived but was unaware that two more children were already in the vehicle,” CNN reports. “Another officer heard a woman yelling that Blake had her children, he said, but did not see the kids in the car.”
Matthews represents the Kenosha police union and last month released a statement defending the officers’ conduct and saying Blake violently resisted arrest. Blake’s family and lawyers have said he was not armed and did not pose a threat to the officers.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has said a knife was found on the floorboard of the vehicle after Sheskey shot Blake but have not said whether officers knew about it, or if Blake ever held or wielded it.
As Sheskey and two other officers tried to arrest Blake, they fired a Taser at him twice but it did not stop him, according to the DOJ.
Matthews in his CNN interview said between the two uses of the Taser, Blake briefly placed Sheskey in a headlock.
Matthews said after the second Taser did not stop Blake, the officers noticed he was holding a knife and demanded he drop it.
Video taken by onlookers shows something in Blake’s hand but it is grainy and difficult to make out what the item is. The man who made the widely shared cellphone video of the shooting said he heard officers yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” but he said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
According to video of the encounter, Blake walked around the front of his car to the driver’s side door with the object in his hand. The officers followed him with their guns drawn, then Blake opened the car door and began to go inside.
Sheskey grabbed Blake’s shirt and fires seven shots, according to the video.
“At the time Sheskey opened fire, (Matthews) said, Blake held a knife in his hand and twisted his body toward the officer,” CNN reports.
The onlooker’s video does not show Blake twisting. His body is partially blocked by the car door.
According to Matthews, officer Vincent Arenas, who also followed Blake to the car, says he also saw Blake turn toward Sheskey with a knife.
“That officer said he too would have opened fire but did not have a clear angle, according to the (Matthews),” CNN reports.
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