The Kyle Rittenhouse Case

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By Josh Daniels

During the chaotic summer of 2020, protests filled the streets of cities across the country to stand up for Black lives being taken by police violence. On August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse – a seventeen year old from Illinois – came as an armed “medic” to protect businesses from protesters. By the end of the night, he had shot three people, killing two. Over a year later, Rittenhouse was found not guilty on five felonies. How did a teenager even get in this situation? What does the public think about the events that have unfolded? Ultimately, the long, controversial story has pushed polarization in America even further towards both extremes, but here are the objective facts of what has happened since that deadly night. 

At seventeen, you are not allowed to own a rifle or carry one in public under Wisconsin law. Rittenhouse’s friend – Dominick Black – had bought him the rifle in the spring of 2020 and planned to transfer ownership to Rittenhouse when he turned eighteen. On the 24th, Rittenhouse had just gone to Black’s stepfather’s house in Kenosha from work with one of his sisters. They were watching chaos erupt in the city. 

The next morning, Rittenhouse, his sister, and Black went to help clean the property of a used car dealership that had been destroyed the night before and remove graffiti on a local school. Rittenhouse’s mother began to get anxious about him and his sister being in Kenosha during the protests, so she came to pick up his sister, leaving Kyle and Black in the city. 

Black’s stepfather had recently moved the guns in a safe in his home into his basement, worrying that someone would break into the house – this included Rittenhouse’s future AR-15. Kyle took the rifle to go protect his friend Nick Smith’s business the night of the 25th. He thought he would be providing aid for people with minor injuries throughout the night and even brought a medical kit. That night, he found other armed individuals that night who came to help protect businesses. The night started peacefully with little tension. Video evidence shows Rittenhouse leave his friend’s business and start moving towards a nearby gas station, screaming “Medical! Medical!” to see if anyone needs help. This same video also shows a group of black men calling Rittenhouse hypocritical for asking if they need medical help when he had just pointed his gun at them and yelling to get off of a car they were standing on. 

At 11:44 PM, Rittenhouse got to the gas station and turned around to go back to his friend’s business, but officers blocked off the street and prevented him from doing so. At the same time, police scanners show protesters beginning to burn cars in a lot nearby the gas station. A video shows Rittenhouse two minutes later running towards the lot with a fire extinguisher. 

Enter Joseph Rosenbaum: recently released from a psychiatric hospital, Rosebaum ran after Rittenhouse as he was running towards the car lot. Video shows him throw a plastic bag with items from the hospital at Rittenhouse at the same time someone else fired a shot. Rittenhouse turned and fired four times at Rosebaum, leaving him unconscious. He was eventually declared dead. Kyle called Black while standing behind cars near the body for a minute before sprinting away from the scene. A man chased him down the street – Anthony Huber. Rittenhouse fell over, and Huber attacked him on the ground with a skateboard. Rittenhouse shot him fatally and fired another shot wounding the nearby Gaige Grosskreutz. Grosskreutz was aiming a gun at Rittenhouse when he was shot. 

Rittenhouse was charged with seven counts: first-degree reckless homicide for Rosenbaum’s death, first-degree recklessly endangering safety for shots that nearly hit bystanders when aiming at Rosenbaum, first-degree recklessly endangering safety for shooting at another man who had attempted to kick Rosenbaum at the same time as Huber hit him with the skateboard, first-degree intentional homicide for the killing of Anthony Huber, attempted first-degree intentional homicide for shooting Gaige Grosskreutz, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under eighteen for carrying his gun, and failure to comply with an emergency order by a state or local government for being out past curfew.

The judge dropped the last two charges. He claimed that because the rifle was not short barreled and the statute given by the prosecution was confusing, the possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor should be dismissed. He also claimed that the prosecution did not provide enough evidence to prove he was out after the curfew of 8:00 pm. Rittenhouse’s defense did a performed well during the trial. They made different decisions that heavily influenced the jury, the biggest of which being Rittenhouse testifying for himself. Normally when the defendant is put on the stand, they give into different stories that the prosecution is trying to paint. Rittenhouse consistently held his own ground on the stage and presented himself as a teenager – not as a grown man. This appealed to the jury’s emotions and added a feeling of empathy towards him. On the contrary, the prosecution did a poor job – George Grosskreutz openly admitted to pointing his gun at Rittenhouse before he was shot. 

Whether the verdict was just or not, it is clear that this case has directly added to the polarization of the country. Conservatives and right wing media have praised Rittenhouse as a ‘hero’, including even those in government positions. Congressman Matt Gaetz went as far as saying he might offer Rittenhouse a job. Coming from a party that is pro law enforcement, treating vigilantes as ‘heroes’ is not the proper response to a case this severe. Three people were shot that night and only two were killed – they happened to be the victims of the case. This kid did not help the city of Kenosha in any way and is anything but a hero. On the other side, the left has treated Kyle like he is a monster. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley called him a white surpremacist domestic terrorist. Although there have been pictures since the night of the 25th of Rittenhouse using white supremacist hand signals, this is a seventeen year old who thought he could take things into his own hands and clearly had no real parental or adult supervision. He is not a terrorist – deeming him as one only desensitizes the word and meaning behind it. 

Reactions from within a day of the verdict being announced have already displayed the sad state of our country as we begin to get more and more polarized. On top of this, it is always sad no matter what if lives are lost. Independently of what your perspective is of the case, the events that took place on the night of the 25th are troubling. 

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