Justin Blake federal civil rights lawsuit, arrested during protests

On the two-year anniversary of the Jacob Blake shooting, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Tuesday, Aug. 23 on behalf of his uncle, Justin Blake. This pertains to Justin Blake's arrest and placement in a restraint chair during protests after the shooting of his nephew.

The lawsuit says Justin Blake was "tortured, suffered severe pain and unlawfully arrested at the hands of defendants." The defendants include Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth, Kenosha County, sheriff's officers and insurance companies. 

The lawsuit asks that:

  • The Kenosha County Sheriff's Department be barred from using emergency restraint chairs.
  • The actions of the defendants be found unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional.
  • It be found the defendants violated constitutional amendments.
  • The defendants permanently delete any arrest records, booking photos, etc. of Justin Blake.
  • Compensatory, pecuniary, punitive and medical expense damages be paid, along with interest.

Justin Blake's arrest

The arrest happened April 25, 2021. The lawsuit alleges Justin Blake "was not disorderly before, during or after his arrest; did not obstruct any officers before, during or after his arrest and did not resist any officers before, during or after his arrest.

It says that when sheriff's deputies could not "force Mr. Blake to speak or answer any questions, an officer said, 'Put him in the damn chair!'"

The lawsuit alleges Justin Blake was punished for exercising his right to remain silent.

Justin Blake said he was dealing with pain after his arrest and subsequent hold in a restraint chair at the Kenosha County Jail in April 2021. It happened after Blake and others were protesting Officer Rusten Sheskey's return to work after the shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020. 

Rusten Sheskey, Jacob Blake

Justin Blake said he was just exercising his constitutional rights, refusing to cooperate with deputies inside the jail. Blake said he was within his rights to remain silent and wanted to send a message. That led to his hold in a restraint chair for around seven hours, blocking doors outside the Kenosha County Public Safety Building.

"We had already practiced that we were not gonna communicate, and if they wanted to arrest us, they could go forth and do that," he said. "That was sort of the purpose of the act."

Nearly seven hours after the protest began, surveillance video shows Kenosha County sheriff's deputies asking Blake and two other men to leave. They refused, and deputies placed the three men under arrest for disorderly conduct. In custody, Blake remained mute, not telling deputies who he was, though they knew. He also didn't have ID on him.

Blake rally

The sheriff's department said deputies asked Blake to remove items like sunglasses, shoelaces and even a belt that could be used for harm inside a holding cell. He didn't comply, so they put Blake in a restraint chair. 

"A restraint chair is just that. When you're in the restraint chair, you're being restrained," said Donald Leach, corrections expert. 

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Designed to prevent self-harm, deputies will strap an inmate to the chair around the wrists, shoulders and ankles.

Blake said it's still causing him pain.

Blake rally

"We're in America. We have the right to remain silent, and we chose to do so and we don't believe anybody in America should have to go through what we went through," said Justin Blake.

Blake was allowed to use the bathroom several times and a nurse periodically checked on his well-being before eventually agreeing to talk seven hours later, something Leach said is what the restraint chair is meant to do.

"You can't use a restraint for punishment, but they can be used as long as necessary to control the behavior," he said.

Blake said he planned to visit the doctor and other specialists to fully assess his pain.