Jacob Blake shooting: Police officer named as protests reach NBA

27 August 2020, 11:00

Protests have continued in Kenosha following the naming of the policeman
Protests have continued in Kenosha following the naming of the policeman. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The police officer who fired seven shots into the back of a black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has been named as protests spill over into major US sports leagues.

Rusten Sheskey, who has served with the Kenosha Police Department for seven years, was named by the Wisconsin Justice Department on Wednesday.

Authorities said he shot Jacob Blake, who has been left paralysed, while holding onto the 29-year-old's shirt after officers first unsuccessfully deployed a Taser.

A knife was later discovered on the driver's side floorboard of the car that Mr Blake appeared to lean into - inside which were seated three of his children.

The man who recorded and circulated the mobile phone footage of the shooting previously said he had heard officers shout, "Drop the knife! Drop the knife!" before any shots were fired.

However, he said he did not see a knife in Mr Blake's hands, while state authorities did not say the 29-year-old threatened anyone with a knife.

Read more: Donald Trump 'sending National Guard' to Wisconsin

Read more: Two dead and one seriously injured during Wisconsin protests

The NBA's Milwaukee Bucks refused to leave the locker room for their playoff game
The NBA's Milwaukee Bucks refused to leave the locker room for their playoff game. Picture: PA

Kenosha police have still said little about the shooting other than that they were reporting to a domestic dispute.

Protests have since spilt over into major sports leagues, with basketball, baseball and football matches all affected.

National Basketball Association (NBA) team Milwaukee Bucks refused to leave their locker room as three NBA play-off games were postponed due to player-led actions, along with three Major League Baseball (MLB) matches, three WNBA (Women's NBA) fixtures and five Major League Soccer games.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, ranked tenth in the world, also withdrew from her semi-final at the Western & Southern Open in New York, scheduled for Thursday, saying "before I am an athlete, I am a black woman", with the tournament later announcing it would suspend play for the day.

It comes after a white, 17-year-old police admirer was arrested over the killing of two people who were gunned down on Tuesday during a third night of protests in the state.

Read more: Jacob Blake 'not likely to walk again' after police shooting

Read more: Protests erupt in US state after police shoot black man

Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch - a village bout 15 miles from Kenosha - Illinois, was taken into custody on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide.

Mobile phone video showed the gunman opening fire in the middle of a street with a semi-automatic rifle.

"I just killed somebody," Rittenhouse could be heard saying at one point during the shooting rampage that erupted just before midnight.

Sheriff David Beth told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that one victim was shot in the head and the other in the chest. A third person suffered gunshot wounds not believed to be life-threatening.

One victim has since been named as 26-year-old Anthony Huber, who a grieving friend described as a "hero". The other is believed to be 36-year-old dad Joseph Rosenbaum, according to US media reports.

In the wake of the killings, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers authorised 500 members of the National Guard to support local law enforcement around Kenosha, doubling the number of troops sent in.

The governor's office said he was working other states to bring in additional National Guard troops and law officers.

"We were all chanting 'Black lives matter' at the gas station and then we heard, boom, boom, and I told my friend, 'That's not fireworks,'" 19-year-old protester Devin Scott told the Chicago Tribune.

"And then this guy with this huge gun runs by us in the middle of the street and people are yelling, 'He shot someone! He shot someone!' And everyone is trying to fight the guy, chasing him and then he started shooting again."

Mr Scott said he cradled a lifeless victim in his arms, and a woman started performing CPR, but "I don't think he made it".

According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the young man responsible for the shootings walk past them with a rifle over his shoulder as members of the crowd were yelling for him to be arrested because he had shot people.

Much of Rittenhouse's Facebook page is devoted to praising law enforcement, with references to Blue Lives Matter, a movement that supports police. He also can be seen holding an assault rifle.

Other photographs include those of badges of various law enforcement agencies, including the Chicago Police Department.

All of the badges have a black line across them - something police officers do with black tape or another material whenever an officer is killed in the line of duty.

The sheriff told the Journal Sentinel that armed people had been patrolling the city's streets in recent nights, but he did not know if the gunman was among them.

"They're a militia," Mr Beth said. "They're like a vigilante group."

The FBI said it is assisting in the case.

Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who is black, said in an interview with the news programme Democracy Now! that the shootings were not surprising and that white militias have been ignored for too long.

"How many times across this country do you see armed gunmen, protesting, walking into state Capitols, and everybody just thinks it's OK?" Mr Barnes said. "People treat that like it's some kind of normal activity that people are walking around with assault rifles."