Biden, Biden administration, civil rights, criminal justice, Democrats, George Floyd, Im-Politic, Jacob Blake, Justice Department, Kamala Harris, Kenosha riots, law enforcement, Michael Graveley, police brutality, police shootings, policing, Rusten Sheskey, systemic racism, Wisconsin
I think it’s more than fair to say that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris owe Rusten Sheskey an apology. Not that they’re the only ones (by a long shot). But I also think it’s fair to say that the President and Vice President are in a special category – even above LeBron James.
Who’s this Sheskey character, you may wonder? He’s the Kenosha, Wisconsin policeman whose allegedly unjustified and indeed racist shooting of James Blake ignited several days of rioting in that city during late August of the “George Floyd summer” of 2020.
By early January, however, it was becoming clear that these accusations – which were also swallowed whole and spread by the women’s and men’s pro basketball leagues (including Los Angeles Laker superstar James), Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and pro tennis – were baseless.
That month, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley, a Democrat, declared that Sheskey had committed no crime when shooting Blake. And he made it obvious why. Blake had resisted arrest when Sheskey and other offices attempted to apprehend him (on felony third-degree sexual assault and misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct charges). He admitted he was carrying a knife.
And Graveley’s official report said that tasering had failed to subdue Blake; that Blake “had the opened knife in his right hand and was attempting to escape from Officer Sheskey’s grasp and enter the driver’s side of [his] SUV”; that both Sheskey and a colleague stated that “in the moment before Officer Sheskey opened fire, Jacob Blake twisted his body, moving his right hand with the knife towards Officer Sheskey”: and that “Two citizen witnesses saw Jacob Blake’s body turn in a manner that appears consistent with what the officers described.”
Indeed, the Kenosha D.A. added, “Officer Sheskey felt he was about to be stabbed.”
Even though this decision had preceded their inaugurations by about three weeks, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris should have issued apologies right then and there. Why? Because right after the shooting, they rushed to judgment and claimed that the evidence available met the prosecution standard.
Acccording to Biden, “We should make sure when all the facts are in and then a decision be made, but based on its appearance, unless they can show something different than what everybody saw, it looks like an overuse of force.”
One of his campaign spokesmen elaborated later:
“He believes that, based on everything he has seen, charges appear warranted, but that there should be a full investigation to ensure all the facts are known first. It is essential that officers in situations like this are held accountable, under due process.”
That’s better than the first statement, which appeared to argue that the burden of proof rested with Sheskey and his lawyers. But if candidate Biden really believed that “all the facts” weren’t in, why make any judgements at all?
Moreover, Mr. Biden lumped the Blake shooting in with other instances of what he considered racist brutality by police:
“[T]his morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another black American is a victim of excessive force,” he said. “This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable….Equal justice has not been real for Black Americans and so many others.”
Harris also referred to the need for a “thorough investigation” but then went on at length to make clear she, too, had already come to major and incriminating conclusions. Specifically,
“based on what I’ve seen, it seems that the officer should be charged. The man was going to his car. He didn’t appear to be armed. And if he was not armed, the use of force that was seven bullets coming out of a gun at close range in the back of the man, I don’t see how anybody could reason that that was justifiable.”
Added Harris, (who oddly acknowledged that Blake might have been resisting arrest, in apparent contradiction to her above claim that he was merely “going to his car”) “Everybody should be afforded due process – I agree with that completely. But here’s the thing, in America we know these cases keep happening. And we have had too many Black men in America who have been the subject of this kind of conduct and it’s got to stop.”
In other words, according to both candidates, Blake’s shooting not only looked like an excessive use of force. It looked like a racist use of force.
And maybe that’s why Mr. Biden and Harris didn’t apologize for attacking Sheskey’s supposed recklessness with his gun. Maybe they were awaiting the results of a Justice Department probe focused on whether Sheskey’s actions added up to a civil rights crime under federal law.
Yet the investigation, launched by the Trump Justice Department later in August, 2020, reached its conclusion this past Friday. The verdict (of the Biden Justice Department)?
“[A] team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the KPD [Kenosha Police Department] officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, the review of this incident has been closed without a federal prosecution.”
So what we have is a determination by a Wisconsin Democratic prosecutor that there was no reason even to indict Sheskey for over-aggressiveness in shooting Blake, and a determination by the Biden Justice Department that there was no reason to indict him for racist behavior. Now what we need is some contrition from the President and the Vice President (not to mention LeBron.) Otherwise, we’ll have another reason, on top of, for example, the botched Afghanistan withdrawal and the Border Crisis, to believe that the concept of accountability is foreign to the Biden-Harris administration.