The Wisconsin police officer at the center of the shooting of a Black man last Sunday in Kenosha once described police work as being a “customer service job, and the public is our customer.”
That was in 2019. For the past week, Kenosha Police Department Officer Rusten Sheskey has been vilified by some and defended by others after he fired seven shots into the back of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father of six.
The shooting sparked protests in Kenosha and led to the shooting deaths of two men Tuesday night.
On Saturday, approximately 1,000 people gathered in Kenosha for a march and rally to protest police violence, The Associated Press reported. Marchers chanted, “No justice, no peace,” and “Seven bullets, seven days.”
However, little is known about Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha police who has been put on administrative leave while Wisconsin officials investigate the confrontation that left Blake paralyzed from the waist down. Two other officers involved in the encounter with Blake, Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek, also have been placed on leave, according to The Washington Post.
Sheskey has been unavailable for comment
Here are some things to know.
Wisconsin high school graduate
Sheskey grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from Waukesha North High School in 2007, the Post reported. Classmates described him as a slim, quiet student who did not participate in many extracurricular activities, the newspaper reported. He was a member of the high school’s marching band and was a member of the intramural bowling club. However, neither the band teacher nor the parent-coaches of the bowling team have many memories of him, according to the Post. Sheskey also was a member of the school’s student council.
“What I remember about him is that he didn’t have many friends,” Val Schermer, a fellow graduate and band member, told the newspaper.
One bowling teammate, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Post that Sheskey was “the nicest, dweebiest guy you’ve ever met.”
Police work a family affair
Sheskey’s grandfather, Oreste “Rusty” Maraccini, was a Kenosha police officer for many years, according to a department post on Facebook in 2014. Sheskey said that was one reason he went into law enforcement.
“Yes, for the most part,” Sheskey told the Kenosha News in 2019. “My grandfather actually worked for the city for 33 years.
Sheskey was one of 20 members of the Kenosha Police Department’s bicycle unit, according to the Kenosha News. The mountain bikes had front suspension, Sheskey told the newspaper during an August 2019 interview. Sheskey told the newspaper he raced bicycles competitively while in high school. He rode in races as far away as Muscatine, Iowa, The New York Times reported.
“I rode on the velodrome,” Sheskey said. “Now, I just kind of do it for fun, mountain biking.
“I like riding because it’s the only thing I know that you can do where you sit down and eat and drink at the same time. And the scenery constantly changes, so if you get bored, just ride somewhere different.”
Before joining the Kenosha Police Department, Sheskey worked for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside from 2009 to 2013. He began as a dispatcher and worked his way up to police officer, CNN reported. He also was a police service associate, according to a university spokesperson, who declined to provide CNN with further details. While at Wisconsin-Parkside, Sheskey responded to reports of hate crimes at the school, according to the Journal Times. One case involved the discovery of nooses and a flier threatening Black students, according to the Times.
Relatively clean record
Since joining the Kenosha Police Department in 2013, Sheskey has had only one disciplinary infraction. He was suspended for one day without pay in 2017 for an unspecified violation of policy. The suspension was related to the safe use of department vehicles, according to the Times.
Sheskey was also part of a 2015 lawsuit, which included the city of Kenosha, in a personal injury case that involved a vehicle, the newspaper reported. The case was resolved in 2016. The woman involved in the case, who was a minor in2015, declined comment Friday, according to NBC News.
Sheskey also pleaded no contest in 2014 for a traffic violation when he failed to obey an officer or traffic signal, the Times reported.
In his 2019 interview with the News, Sheskey said he enjoyed his work.
“What I like most is that you’re dealing with people on perhaps the worst day of their lives and you can try and help them as much as you can and make that day a little bit better,” Sheskey said. “We may not be able to make a situation right, or better, but we can maybe make it a little easier for them to handle during that time.”
One of Sheskey’s neighbors, who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity amid fears of retaliation, said she often chatted with the officer.
“I loved him being my neighbor,” she told the newspaper. “The man went to work. He’s a good man. Do I know his inner thoughts? No. Do I think he’s a racist? No. Just a young man living his life, got caught up in a mess.
“And two lives will never be the same, and it breaks my heart.”
Cox Media Group