Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with shooting and killing two men during this week’s violent demonstrations in Kenosha, will remain in Lake County for another month after a judge on Friday allowed a delay in the court process that could send him to Wisconsin to face the allegations.
Meanwhile, Kenosha police Chief Daniel Miskinis on Friday defended police after they allowed Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, to leave the scene of Tuesday’s deadly shooting in the protest-wracked city even though the teen was holding a rifle and had his hands up in what many interpret as a gesture of surrender.
In another development, an attorney for Jacob Blake told CNN that handcuffs restraining Blake have been removed and that warrants against him have been vacated.
Blake was shot by Kenosha police on Sunday, and it was during protests over that shooting during which Rittenhouse allegedly shot three people, two of them fatally. Police have been criticized for failing to apprehend Rittenhouse sooner.
“There were a lot of people in the area, a lot of people with weapons, and unfortunately, a lot of gunfire,” Miskinis said at a news conference Friday. “What the officers were ... driving into was a shots fired complaint, not a shooting, not a person down complaint. We have had many of those over the course of this unfortunate event.
“They’re responding to that, they see someone walking toward them with their hands up,” Miskinis said. “That, too, isn’t out of the ordinary given all the events going on. ... We have armed individuals out protesting, or counterprotesting, or simply walking around exercising their right, (who) will put their hands up. It might have been abnormal two weeks ago. It’s no longer abnormal. There’s nothing to suggest this individual was involved in criminal behavior.”
Judge Paul Novak granted a 30-day continuance during a brief online status hearing on Rittenhouse’s potential extradition to Kenosha County, where he faces a murder charge and several other counts.
The assistant public defender representing him in the extradition case, Jennifer Snyder, asked for the delay as Rittenhouse’s family seeks a private attorney to represent him. His next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25.
Rittenhouse did not appear at the hearing.
Kenosha County prosecutors on Thursday evening filed charges accusing Rittenhouse of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, with backward cap, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian.
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, with backward cap, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian. (Adam Rogan/The Journal Times)
An intentional homicide charge amounts to a first-degree murder charge in Illinois. The reckless homicide charge amounts to a second-degree murder charge here. If convicted of the first-degree intentional homicide charge as an adult, Rittenhouse could face a life sentence. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Rittenhouse is accused of shooting the men Tuesday night as numerous civilians armed with rifles inserted themselves into violent demonstrations that raged for three nights in the city just over the Wisconsin border. The protests, clashes with police and fires followed an officer’s shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, who according to a video appeared to have had his back turned to the cop who fired.
Rittenhouse was arrested as a fugitive Wednesday in Lake County. He is charged in Wisconsin as an adult. Earlier this week, a judge ordered him held without bail at the Lake County juvenile detention facility.
Rittenhouse’s case has become a popular cause in conservative circles, where pundits began defending the white teenager before he had even been charged. At least two defense funds have been launched in his name by politically active groups in recent the days, though it’s unclear if the Rittenhouse family supports either of those efforts.
Court records do not yet indicate that any private lawyer is officially representing Rittenhouse. However, two prominent conservative attorneys began an online fundraising effort on Rittenhouse’s behalf this week, with a website that seeks donations to fight against “the radical left” and the “fake news media.”
Second Amendment organizations also have offered support for the Antioch resident, including one Colorado-based group that has launched another defense fund for him.
In a statement released Friday, the National Foundation for Gun Rights called Rittenhouse a “law-abiding” teenager who had a right to defend himself.
Executive Director Dudley Brown said the organization has not spoken with Rittenhouse’s family and has not had any direct conversations with his lawyers, but it decided to get involved because it wanted to take a stand against the “chaos” happening in cities across the country. Dudley acknowledged Rittenhouse’s case “isn’t perfect,” but he said the defendant has a strong self-defense claim because, he believes, the people Rittenhouse shot pursued him first.
“I don’t think there are many people in America who wouldn’t have felt threatened if you were in that spot with Kyle there.” Brown said.
Brown would not say whether Rittenhouse should have inserted himself in Kenosha’s unrest in the first place. He said from the video he has watched, Rittenhouse knew how to handle a gun and was with adults.
“Whenever we look at cases and decide whether we’re going to jump in, of course we like them to be patently, obviously free of legal problems,” Brown said. “But that’s rarely the case, especially when you’re talking about constitutional rights.”
Records show Rittenhouse has worked as a YMCA lifeguard. His social media postings show that he idolizes police and has participated in programs for aspiring cops.
What we know so far about Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of murder after fatal Kenosha protest shootings »
Numerous video clips posted online appear to show Rittenhouse at the scene Tuesday night with a rifle, including several that show shootings and their aftermaths. The videos also indicated that he approached police before the shootings despite being out past curfew and a year too young to carry a gun openly in Wisconsin.
Those videos, along with interviews by Kenosha detectives, are the backbone of the complaint against him.
Rittenhouse came to the demonstrations with a Smith & Wesson AR-15-style .223 caliber rifle with a 30-round magazine, the charges allege.
Video showed Rittenhouse running across the parking lot of an auto dealer where cars had previously been burned, trailed by Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, prosecutors wrote. Behind Rosenbaum was Richard McGinniss, a videographer at the Daily Caller, a conservative website.
Video showed Rosenbaum seemingly throwing something at Rittenhouse, and investigators later determined it was a plastic bag, prosecutors wrote. Rittenhouse was not hit. Prosecutors wrote that McGinniss told police that “as the defendant was walking, Rosenbaum was trying to get closer to the defendant. When Rosenbaum advanced, the defendant did a ‘juke’ move and started running.”
Rosenbaum appeared to have been unarmed, prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors wrote that as Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse approached a black car, a loud bang was heard and a male shouted, “F--k you!” As the men were close to one another, four loud bangs sounded and Rosenbaum fell, prosecutors said. McGinniss told police Rosenbaum had tried to grab the gun, prosecutors wrote.
Fledgling militia group put out call to arms in Kenosha and 5,000 people responded. Now it’s banned from Facebook after fatal shootings during protests. »
Rittenhouse approached Rosenbaum on the ground, and McGinniss took off his shirt and tried to give the wounded man aid, prosecutors wrote. Rittenhouse got on his cellphone, made a call, and audio from one of the videos caught him saying, “I just killed somebody,” the complaint alleges. Investigators learned that call was to a friend, prosecutors wrote.
An autopsy showed Rosenbaum had gunshot wounds to the groin, back, hand and thigh, as well as a graze wound to the forehead, prosecutors wrote. The charge of first-degree reckless homicide stems from that shooting. Rittenhouse is charged with recklessly endangering McGinniss’s safety.
Prosecutors wrote that video shows that after that shooting, Rittenhouse ran north on Sheridan Road with people in pursuit, with some yelling things such as “Hey, he shot him!” and “Get that dude!” Someone swung at him and knocked his hat off before he tripped and fell to the ground, prosecutors wrote.
An unidentified male jumped at Rittenhouse, and he fired at him from the ground, apparently missing, prosecutors alleged.
A man carrying a skateboard and later identified as Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake then approached Rittenhouse as he was still on his back, prosecutors wrote. Huber reached for the gun as the skateboard hit Rittenhouse’s shoulder before the alleged gunman fired one shot, and Huber staggered away and collapsed, prosecutors alleged.
The autopsy showed the bullet hit Huber’s heart and one of his lungs, prosecutors wrote. Huber’s death is the source of the murder charge.
As Rittenhouse was on the ground, a man identified as Gaige Grosskreutz of West Allis approached, prosecutors wrote. After Rittenhouse shot Huber, Grosskreutz ducked, stepped back and put his hands in the air, the complaint alleges. He then moved toward Rittenhouse, who shot him in the arm, prosecutors wrote. Grosskreutz walked off screaming for a medic, prosecutors wrote.
Grosskreutz appeared to be holding a handgun when he was shot, prosecutors wrote. Wisconsin court records do not indicate that Grosskreutz has been charged with any crime. His shooting is the source of the attempted murder charge against Rittenhouse.
The gun charge Rittenhouse faces is a misdemeanor.
Beyond Rittenhouse’s charges, Wisconsin authorities have begun releasing more details of the shooting that sparked the protests, looting and fires.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice on Wednesday night identified the officer who shot Blake seven times as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department. On Friday morning, the agency identified the other police at the scene as officers Vincent Arenas and Brittany Meronek.
The police shooting came about 5 p.m. Sunday as the officers responded to a call from a woman who reported that her boyfriend was present but not supposed to be there, according to the state Justice Department. At the scene, Sheskey and Arenas both unsuccessfully used Tasers, the state Justice Department said in a news release.
In footage shared online, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of an SUV to the driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns pointed. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and appears to open fire while Blake has his back turned.
The state Justice Department wrote that a knife was recovered from the driver-side floorboard of the vehicle. The department wrote in a statement that, “Mr. Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession.” It was not clear from the statement whether officers believed the knife posed any threat to officers or anyone else.
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Blake’s lawyers and family said Tuesday that he is paralyzed from the waist down and may never walk again. The family has called for peaceful protests.
Blake had been handcuffed to his hospital bed during his entire stay since he was shot by Kenosha police on Sunday, his uncle Justin Blake told the Pioneer Press.
Asked for confirmation Thursday, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. David Wright replied:
“I can tell you that Jacob Blake is in custody on felony warrants for prior crimes he committed before the shooting incident. This is how any person with that classification level would be treated while in custody.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said he was concerned.
“Hell yes. I would have no personal understanding why that would be necessary. Certainly he’s paid a horrific price already being shot seven or eight times in the back. So I can’t imagine why that’s happening,” he said when asked at a Thursday news conference.