The two Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake during an attempted arrest were identified Friday by the state’s Department of Justice.
The state DOJ had previously identified the officer who shot Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the police department. In an updated press release on Friday, the department identified the other two officers as Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, who joined the Kenosha Police Department in February 2019 and January 2020, respectively.
Officers were called to a home Sunday in Kenosha, about 40 miles southeast of Milwaukee, after a woman reported that her boyfriend was at the home when he wasn’t supposed to be there.
The officers tried to arrest Blake, the DOJ said.
“After the initial attempt to arrest Mr. Blake, Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake,” the release stated. “When that attempt failed, Kenosha Police Officer Vincent Arenas also deployed his taser, however that taser was also not successful in stopping Mr. Blake.”
“Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon.”
Blake was taken to the hospital, where he remains. The family’s attorney, Patrick Salvi, said Blake is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said in an interview Friday on “Good Morning America” that officers Sheskey and Arenas used their tasers to try and stop Blake.
“The officers were attempting to effectuate an arrest and they used their tasers in the course of that process because they were trying to stop Mr. Blake,” he said. “But those tasers didn’t work and Mr. Blake was ultimately shot.”
The DOJ said in its press release that Blake “admitted that he had a knife in his possession” and that investigators recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of his car. No other weapons were found in the vehicle, the agency said. It is not clear whether Blake was carrying the knife at the time he was shot.
Benjamin Crump, another lawyer for Blake’s family, said Blake was “helping to de-escalate a domestic incident” when the officer shot him from behind as Blake was walking away.
The DOJ press release does not state Meronek’s role in the attempted arrest, and the Kenosha Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. Attempts to reach the officers were not successful.
All three officers have been placed on administrative leave, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said at a news conference Wednesday.
Kenosha police officers do not wear body cameras because the department does not have them, according to the DOJ’s release. But the shooting was captured on cellphone video and widely shared on social media, sparking protests in the city.
During a protest late Tuesday night, two people were shot and killed and a third person suffered non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers increased the National Guard presence this week as protests continued. Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp said at a news conference Friday that over 1,000 troops are currently in the city and they will remain for “as long as we’re needed.”
During protests earlier in the week, demonstrators set fire to areas near the city’s courthouse, leaving portions of an adjacent street charred. Buildings in the downtown area were seen boarded up, with some including written messages on the plywood in support of Black Lives Matter. The sheriff’s department remains blocked off with concrete barricades and a layer of more than eight-foot-tall steel gates.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, was arrested Wednesday in his hometown in connection to the shooting at Tuesday’s protest. He faces a slew of charges in connection with the shootings, including two counts of first-degree intentional homicide.
An extradition hearing for Rittenhouse was held Friday morning but a judge approved a delay in the proceedings for another 30 days to allow the family to seek a private attorney.
Attorney John Pierce, who says he is representing Rittenhouse, said in a statement Thursday, “This was classic self-defense and we are going to prove it. We will obtain justice for Kyle no matter how hard the fight or how long it takes.”
Pierce told Reuters that he hopes to raise money for Rittenhouse’s defense through the #FightBack Foundation, a non-profit he formed with L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta-based attorney who is representing Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann.