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Kenosha City Council denies award of $50K in damages to Jacob Blake

The City Council did not offer comment, and they did not deliberate on the matter. The unanimous 17-0 vote from the Council came on Monday night.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

The City Council in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has denied a claim from Jacob Blake that sought $50,000 in damages from the city. Blake was shot in August 2020 by police, and suffered paralysis as a result of his injuries. In the wake of that shooting, riots erupted in the city, and many businesses were burned to the ground.

Blake was asking for the coverage of his medical expenses, as well as lost income, and "pain and suffering disfigurement." The City Council did not offer comment, and they did not deliberate on the matter. The unanimous 17-0 vote from the Council came on Monday night.

The suit was filed in March, and though the claim itself was maxed at $50,000, Blake's Chicago based attorneys "Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. also submitted an itemization of 'special damages' in the amount of $776,614.67 resulting from his injuries," according to Kenosha News.

However, the filing is merely a formality, said City Administrator John Morrissey, which now allows Blake to move ahead with filing for damages against the state of Wisconsin.

"This is just a claim. I don't know whether they'll file a state lawsuit," Morrissey said on Thursday, noting that "The maximum exposure for a municipality is $50,000."

A federal suit is also proceeding, as Blake's attorneys named Officer Rusten Sheskey in a federal civil rights suit. A statement from the legal team reads that "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."

The federal suit asks for "unspecified amounts for compensation for his injuries, as well as, a 'substantial sum' for punitive damages, attorney's fees and other costs.

Sheskey is the sole defendant in that case and is being sued individually, but, because he works for Kenosha Police Department, it is the department that is paying Sheskey's legal fees.

The officer who was responsible for shooting Blake was cleared of wrongdoing in April as no charges were filed against Sheskey and he was cleared to return to work.

"As of March 31st 2021, Officer Sheskey has returned from administrative leave," read a statement from the Kenosha Police Department. "Although this incident has been reviewed at 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."

The story of Jacob Blake was a bit convoluted at first, as the story that police shot yet another unarmed black man made news before the facts had even begun to surface. Protests erupted shortly after the shooting, as demonstrators and activists poured in from around the country to make their objections heard.

It was only after the city had been subjected to three nights of rioting, looting, and demonstrations that the story began to emerge that police had been called to the scene by the mother of Blake's children, that there was a restraining order against him, that she was concerned that he was taking their children, and that he had a knife in the car that he was reaching for at the time he was shot.

Even months later, media continued to say that Blake had been killed in the shooting, and painted him as a victim, as opposed to someone on whom police were called while he was violating a restraining order. Officer Sheskey said that he was undertaking to protect the children in the car when Blake was shot.

$50 million in damages was endured by Kenosha-area businesses, and the local fire department reported that they dealt with 37 arsons on the second night of rioting alone.

A young man who was in Kenosha during those riots, Kyle Rittenhouse, has been charged in the shooting deaths of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum and in the shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz.

Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty by reason of self-defense of the following crimes. His defense team released a video of the night in question to prove his claims of self-defense.

Rittenhouse faces charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon, first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon, first-degree reckless homicide with a dangerous weapon, first-degree recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon (two separate counts).

Video evidence showed Rittenhouse attempting to surrender to authorities in Kenosha following the shootings, but his involvement was muffled by the night's confusion. For his safety, Rittenhouse left the area. He appeared at the Antioch police station with his mother the next day to turn himself in. Then he was held without bail in the Lake County juvenile facility for two months.

Rittenhouse's attorneys have argued self-defense after he was chased down and assaulted by the raging mob in August, alleging in their petition fighting the extradition process that 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum threatened Rittenhouse. The boy fired “under grave risk of immediate harm,” the petition read.

A witness told law enforcement that Rosenbaum, who appeared on video to be unarmed as he pursued Rittenhouse across a parking lot, tried to steal Rittenhouse's rifle before he was shot dead, Kenosha County prosecutors wrote.

When Rittenhouse tripped and fell, 26-year-old Anthony Huber approached with a skateboard and moved to grab the gun as the skateboard “(made) contact” with Rittenhouse’s shoulder, prosecutors alleged. Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued in their filing that the skateboard hit the teen’s head then the teen shot Huber when they wrestled over the rifle.

27-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz appeared to be holding a handgun when he was wounded in the arm, prosecutors admitted. The teen’s lawyers contended that Grosskreutz “lowered his handgun in Rittenhouse’s direction.”

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