Central Pennsylvania DA faces calls for resignation over Kenosha-related social media post

Protesters gather in Kenosha the second night of protests on August 24th, 2020. This was before the clashes with police later that night (Photo by The Wisconsin Examiner)

A central Pennsylvania prosecutor is facing calls for his resignation over a Facebook post that he says is being blown out of proportion.

On Sunday, Cumberland County’s elected district attorney, Republican Skip Ebert, responded to a Facebook post wondering why money was being raised “for a 17 yr. old killer,” and not for “a father of 3, shot 7x in his back and now paralyzed.”

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The former was a reference to Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Illinois teen, who has been arrested and charged with shooting two protesters to death in Kenosha, Wisc., last week.

The latter is a reference to Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back seven times during an altercation with a Kenosha police officer, sparking more than a week of sometimes violent clashes on the streets of the midwestern city.

In his response to that post, Ebert asked “what was the ‘father’s’ criminal record? What was he being arrested for? Why was he unable to comply with police requests?”

Police attempted to arrest Blake when the incident took place. A union representing police officers has claimed that Blake was armed with a knife and “forcefully fought” with officers who were trying to take him into custody, NPR reported on Aug. 28. A short video that has been shown countless times on television and other media does not show the events that precede Blake being shot, NPR reported.

The Sentinel of Carlisle reported Monday that “reaction to Ebert’s questions in the post said that Ebert was suggesting that Blake’s history may make his condition less sympathetic, raising questions as to Ebert’s judgement if he, as the county’s top prosecutor, were to have to decide whether to press charges against an officer for an unjustified use of force.”

In a statement, Cumberland County’s Democratic Party said it condemned Ebert’s “despicable and troubling” remarks.

“Mr. Ebert believes that Jacob Blake may have deserved to be shot and killed, despite never having a chance to defend himself in court or be tried by a jury of his peers,” the statement reads. ” … The mission statement of the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office even states that it will, “ensure that justice is done in a fair, effective, and efficient manner.’

“To ensure fair trials for all Cumberland County residents and for the safety of Black members of our community, we are calling for the resignation of District Attorney Skip Ebert,” the statement reads.

Speaking to the Sentinel, Ebert said his comments were being taken too far.

“Those statements are in no way justifying a person being shot in the back,” he told the newspaper. But, he added, the officer’s knowledge of Blake’s background would be a factor in deciding whether to charge the officer accused of shooting Blake with a crime.

“It’s simply what I would have said if I was doing the investigation,” Ebert told the newspaper. “What went on in the officer’s mind is going to be critical to establishing, ‘what was his motive that led to shooting?’”

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press