With the horrific assault of Jacob Blake by police officers saturating peoples’ minds, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have escalated across Wisconsin. Protesters and rioters alike are calling for an end to police brutality through the means of police reform. While many protesters continue to peacefully demonstrate for change, many of them have resorted to rioting due to the lack of response from the police department and the country at large. As a result, many business owners fear for their own livelihoods being burned amidst the riots. Many more have decided to take measures of protecting their property into their own hands.
This was the alleged reason why Kyle Rittenhouse, a seventeen year old adolescent, was carrying an AR-15 in front of a gas station the night he killed two protestors. Since the Kenosha shooting, There have been lots of discussions centered around this situation, and naturally, the final verdict is still shrouded in mystery as we continue to uncover more and more pieces of information. This is a culmination of what we know right now about the Kenosha shooting, what this means for the charges levied against Kyle Rittenhouse, and the broader political impacts of the event.
The record starts at 10:04 pm. Rittenhouse and the armed militia he was accompanying were first seen on camera at this time and they explained their intent: They were protecting a car dealership on the corner of 59th and Sheridan, opposite of another burned-down dealership. The militia was allegedly not receiving payment, as they claim that they were doing this out of service for the community. Rittenhouse himself is seen in a green shirt holding an assault rifle and carrying a med pack around his waist. He claims that this was for the protestors if any happened to get hurt. At around 10:30 pm, Rittenhouse is seen conversing with police officers asking for water. From the available accounts, it appears that the police endorsed the presence of the militia stating, “We appreciate you guys. We really do,” on camera.
As midnight approached, protesters and rioters began to congregate at the First United Methodist Church and at the gas station. Detective Cepress interviewed reporter Richard McGinnis on the whereabouts of Rittenhouse. McGinnis explained that he was interviewing Rittenhouse shortly before the shooting. They were accompanied by another armed male in his 30s. Rittenhouse told McGinnis that he was a trained medic. McGinnis additionally remarked on how Rittenhouse was “not handling the weapon very well.” As they walked, they were trailed by protester Joseph Rosenbaum. As Rosenbaum approached Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse ran away in an attempt to evade his pursuer. At 11:48 pm, the 1st shooting occurs. Rittenhouse, or a figure approximating him, was recorded being chased by Joseph Rosebaum, the first victim, across the used car lot. Rosenbaum is seen throwing what appears to be a plastic bag with a bottle in it which did not hit Rittenhouse. Aside from the bag, Rosenbaum did not appear to be armed. The pursuit continued behind a row of cars before shots were fired. Rosenbaum fell to the ground and McGinnis attempted to aid the injuries. As of right now, we don’t know why Rosenbaum pursued Rittenhouse, and it very well could shift the entire narrative of the shooting. Unfortunately, the lack of context forces us to take what is at surface value and recover what information we have. There was some debate over whether the initial shot came from the AR-15 Rittenhouse had carried since on video, the discharge made a distinctly different sound. However, nothing has come to light of this seeing that the only weapon in play at the time of the events was the assault rifle.
Following this initial shooting, Rittenhouse is seen leaving the site holding a phone. People allegedly heard him stating “I just shot someone.” It was later revealed that he called his friend, Dominic Black.
McGinnis stated that Rittenhouse wanted to head to the hospital, which was down the street from the gas station. Here, we can see the infamous video take place where Rittenhouse runs across the street, protestors gain wind of his recent shooting, and attempt to apprehend the shooter. The debate over innocence is highly contested here. On one hand, Rittenhouse’s actions are appropriate in that he was trying to de-escalate the situation. The story lines up if Rittenhouse notified someone about Rosenbaum's death and attempted to reach the hospital. He was trying to resolve the conflict. However, the protestors had a different impression. All they knew was that there was a militiaman who had just killed one of their own. Running away signifies either Rittenhouse doing something criminal or attempting to reposition for a secondary attack. In a society that celebrates peacekeepers and those that fight back against injustice, the protestors pursued Rittenhouse under the impression that they were stopping an active terrorist, and that this was the best way to mitigate damage. Seeing the ideological viewpoint clouded by the innocence of both parties, we have to default to the consequentialist viewpoint where we analyze what exactly resulted from this event. As recorded on the camera, Rittenhouse is now running from the mob of protestors both who were attempting to de-escalate. Rittenhouse then trips and falls near 61st street and Sheridan Road. While on the ground, Rittenhouse is first approached by an unidentified male who Rittenhouse shoots at twice without hitting him. The male quickly disperses and a second man, named Anthony Huber, approaches Rittenhouse with a skateboard in hand. At 11:49, the second shooting occurs. Huber attempts to take Rittenhouse’s firearm using the skateboard as a melee weapon. With the barrel pointed at Huber’s body, Rittenhouse discharges another shot into Huber, who dies from the gunshot moments later.
In another video, Rittenhouse, composing himself to sit up-right, is seen approached by a final male who was identified as Gaige Grosskreutz. Grosskreutz flinches and attempts to evade the line of fire when Huber is shot. After, Grosskreutz approaches Rittenhouse with a handgun and is shot in the right arm. Most likely, Grosskreutz was attempting to apprehend Rittenhouse using a handgun, however, we never see the result of this. Again, the only weapon actively in play is the AR-15. Grosskreutz runs away from Rittenhouse calling for a medic, and Rittenhouse continues to walk down the street. At 11:51, the police arrive. Contrary to what would have happened if defendant Rittenhouse was African-American, he was allowed to go home before eventually getting arrested in the days that followed.
There are a few things to review from the Kenosha shooting regarding the legal actions that will be taken. According to the official criminal complaint, Kyle Rittenhouse has been charged with first degree reckless homicide, first degree recklessly endangering safety (both for the events of the 1st shooting), first degree intentional homicide (2nd shooting), attempt first degree intentional homicide (3rd shooting), first degree recklessly endangering safety (for the events of both the 2nd and 3rd shooting), and possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor.
I take issue with the charges meant to directly address the shootings. Let’s start with the first shooting. According to the Nicholson, Gansner, and Otis Senior Counsel, in order for something to be deemed a reckless homicide, you would need to prove that the defendant caused another person’s death by showing an “utter disregard for human life” and is regarded as a Class B felony. While this could be harder to prove than second degree, I believe it can still be contested. On one hand, there is a lot that Rittenhouse could have done to de-escalate without resorting to murder, and he needs to be held responsible for bringing the conflict to that point. Rosenbaum was one man who, from what we know, was unarmed. Rittenhouse had support, and his militia could have stepped in to prevent this from happening. However, there is also room for the opposition case. Guns are meant to be the ultimate de-escalation of violence. Much like a nuclear bomb during the Cold War, having a gun is meant to stop conflicts before they start. So what do you do when someone charges at you even when you have a gun? The argument is that Rosenbaum was showing lethal intent by confronting an armed Rittenhouse. And thus, under our second amendment, Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and does not meet the criteria.
Aside from this charge, I find the first degree intentional homicide charges to be extremely problematic. Defined again by the Nicholson, Gansner, and Otis Senior Counsel, “Prosecutors can charge someone with intentional homicide in the first degree if they believe the defendant intended to kill another person.” This is Class A felony and is comparable to first degree murder. Given the evidence and timeline provided in this article, I find these charges will be extremely hard to prove. Yes, people died at the hands of Rittenhouse, but in order to charge him with these offenses, we essentially have to prove that Rittenhouse was akin to a school shooter or a terrorist, that he came to the protest with the intent to kill, contrary to his militia’s alleged presence guarding property. What’s worse is that if the prosecutors aren’t able to prove this, Rittenhouse will not be liable for the 2nd and 3rd shootings. Under our fifth amendment, courts cannot press charges against a person twice for the same crime, meaning that more reasonable things such as reckless homicide or a second degree charge are out of the question and Rittenhouse will get off scot-free.
Fortunately, Rittenhouse will almost certainly be liable for the charges of endangering people’s lives and the possession of an illegal firearm. The position that I take with the Kenosha Shooting is that Kyle was acting in self defense, but he is not a victim of his circumstances. He accepted the illegal gig and traveled state lines to get himself into this. Rittenhouse put this upon himself and he needs to face the consequences. He is a living justification for the restriction of firearms for minors because he displayed how a 17 year old can end the life of two people and seriously injure another.
Lastly, I want to address the impacts of the Kenosha Shooting on the culture war. Firstly, the right wing is, obviously, praising Rittenhouse for his valiant defense against ANTIFA, claiming that he should be given a medal of honor. Essentially, they are using his story as a way to prop up their anti-antifacist platform. On the other side, the left wing is framing this kid as a white supremacist terrorist who was no angel because he previously had a fight with a girl. With this, I also want to acknowledge a fair criticism from the left: the treatment by the police. No way would Rittenhouse still be alive after his actions if he were African American. Aside from that, my point is that both sides are sacrificing some of the truth in order to give themselves a leg up in the culture war. I believe that this skewing of the narrative does a disservice to discourse and makes us no better than those justifying George Floyd’s death because of his counterfeit $20. The world isn’t in black and white, and nuance can help us reach fairer conclusions about events like the Kenosha Shooting.
Disclaimer from the author: The statements I made in relation to the evidence available right now are conclusions I have drawn on my own through extensive research.