Prosecutors on Thursday charged a 17-year-old from Illinois in the fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a night of unrest following the weekend police shooting of Jacob Blake.
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Kyle Rittenhouse faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide, one count of first-degree reckless homicide, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. He would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, the most serious crime in Wisconsin.
The shootings late Tuesday — largely caught on cellphone video and posted online — and the shooting by police Sunday of Blake, a 29-year-old Black father of six who was left paralyzed from the waist down, made Kenosha the latest focal point in the fight against racial injustice that has gripped the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
The two men killed were Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, and Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of the city.
A third man was injured. Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, of West Allis, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Kenosha is recovering after surgery, said Bethany Crevensten, another activist. She said Grosskreutz was volunteering as a medic when he was shot and called him “a hero.”
Rosenbaum was shot and killed first, after following Rittenhouse into a used car lot, where he threw a plastic bag at the gunman and attempted to take the weapon from him, according to a criminal complaint released by prosecutors Thursday. The medical examiner found that Rosenbaum was shot in the groin and back — which fractured his pelvis and perforated his right lung and liver — and his left hand. He also suffered a superficial wound to his left thigh and a graze wound to his forehead.
Rittenhouse then ran down the street and was chased by several people shouting that he just shot someone before he tripped and fell, according to the complaint and cellphone footage. Huber, who was carrying a skateboard, was shot in the chest after apparently trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse, the complaint said.
Grosskreutz, who appeared to be holding a gun, then was shot in the left arm after approaching Rittenhouse, the complaint said.
Rittenhouses attorney, Lin Wood, said the teenager was acting in self-defense.
“From my standpoint, its important that the message be clear to other Americans who are attacked that there will be legal resources available in the event false charges are brought against them,” he said. “Americans should never be deterred from exercising their right of self-defense.”
Kenosha police faced questions about their interactions with the gunman on Tuesday night. According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the gunman walk past them and leave the scene with a rifle over his shoulder and his hands in the air, as members of the crowd yelled for him to be arrested because he had shot people.
How is Kyle Rittenhouse, an alleged mass shooter in Kenosha still walking around in front of police with a loaded riffle not shot at by them? Is he not a threat to them or the public around him? pic.twitter.com/T2mxGoLrJt
— ChristopherProud Dem (@cwebbonline) August 26, 2020
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth explained that the gunman likely slipped away because the scene was chaotic, with lots of radio traffic and people screaming, chanting and running — conditions he said can cause “tunnel vision” among law officers.
Video taken before the shooting shows police tossing bottled water from an armored vehicle and thanking civilians armed with long guns walking the streets. One of them appears to be the gunman.
Cell phone video shows Kenosha Wisconsin police officers in an military vehicle telling armed White militia members they "appreciate them being there" and giving them bottled water; while in the background cops can be heard ordering protestors to disperse. pic.twitter.com/73SsfCUYWj
— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) August 26, 2020
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on Thursday decried how Rittenhouse, whom he described as a vigilante accountable to nobody, could walk away while police talked about finding a knife inside Blakes vehicle after he was shot in the back.
He said the fact that Rittenhouse and others came to Kenosha to take matters into their own hands “was completely horrifying.”
Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Kenosha, was taken into custody Wednesday in Illinois. He was assigned a public defender in Illinois for a hearing Friday on his transfer to Wisconsin. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
Kenoshas streets were calm Thursday following a night of peaceful protests and no widespread unrest for the first time since Blakes shooting. During demonstrations the previous two nights, dozens of fires were set and businesses were ransacked and destroyed.
Kenosha police arrested nine people for disorderly conduct on Wednesday evening after they filled gas cans at a city gas station, the department said Thursday.
Riot Kitchen, a Seattle-based nonprofit that serves food at demonstrations, said its members were filling up gas cans for their vehicles and to power a generator for their food truck, and posted a bystanders video on Twitter that it said showed the arrests.
In the video, black SUVs converge on a minivan at an intersection near a gas station. Several officers in heavy vests get out pointing guns at the van. Moments later an officer shatters the passenger side window with a baton, unlocks the van and pulls out a person who does not appear to offer any resistance.
Police said they received a tip about “suspicious vehicles” with out-of-state license plates, and arrested the group on the suspicion that they were “preparing for criminal activity”. Police said they found fireworks, gas masks, helmets, heavy vests and “suspected controlled substances” in the vehicles.
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