Court Docs Provide More Questions Than Answers In Kenosha Shootings

17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse is set to make his first court appearance in Lake County, Wisconsin today on two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and several other charges, including illegal possession of the AR-15 that the teen brought with him to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois on Tuesday of this week.

I’ve tried very hard to keep an open mind about the charges that Rittenhouse is facing since they’ve been announced. Yes, the videos that have been released appear to show Rittenhouse as the victim of an attempted assault, not the initial aggressor, but given the charges, I assumed that prosecutors and police were sitting on some details or evidence that wasn’t caught on camera in the moments before the first shots were fired.

Having read the probable cause statement filed by Lake County Assistant D.A. Carli McNeill, I’m left with even more questions about why Rittenhouse is facing first degree murder charges, because the prosecutor’s own report would seem to indicate that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense as his attorney claims (Note: some NSFW language appears below).

In the course of investigating this incident, law enforcement reviewed and shared with your complainant multiple videos that appeared to be recorded on cell phones. In the first video, a male who was later identified to be Kyle H. Rittenhouse.. is running southwest across the eastern portion of the Car Source parking lot. The defendant is a resident of Antioch, IL. The defendant can clearly be seen holding a long gun, which was later recovered by law enforcement and identified as a Smith & Wesson AR-15 style .223 rifle. The recovered magazine for this rifle holds 30 rounds of ammunition.

Following the defendant is Rosenbaum and trailing behind the defendant and Rosenbaum is a male who was later identified as Richard McGinnis, a reporter. The video shows that as they cross the parking lot, Rosenbaum appears to throw an object at the defendant. The object does not hit the defendant and a second video shows, based on where the object landed, that it was a plastic bag. Rosenbaum appears to be unarmed for the duration of this video. A review of the second video shows that the defendant and Rosenbaum continue to move across the parking lot and approach the front of a black car parked in the lot. A loud bang is heard on the video, then a male shouts, “Fuck you!”, then Rosenbaum appears to continue to approach the defendant and gets in near proximity to the defendant when 4 more loud bangs are heard. Rosenbaum then falls to the ground.

The plastic bag that was thrown at Rittenhouse appeared to be on fire when it was thrown, and the videos that have been released sure look like there was something in that plastic bag. Was it a Molotov cocktail that failed to ignite as some have suggested? The probable cause statement doesn’t say, but it also leaves out the fact that at least one shot was fired from another demonstrator as Rittenhouse was running across the parking lot pursued by Rosenbaum, as the New York Times pointed out in their timeline of the shootings.

The probable cause statement quotes Richard McGinnis, a Daily Caller reporter, who told authorities it looked like Rosenbaum was going for Rittenhouse’s rifle when he was shot.

Before the shooting, McGinnis was interviewing the defendant. The defendant told McGinnis that he was a trained medic. McGinnis stated that he (McGinnis) has handled many ARs and that the defendant was not handling the weapon very well. McGinnis said that as they were walking south another armed male who appeared to be in his 30s joined them and said he was there to protect the defendant. McGinnis stated that before the defendant reached the parking lot and ran across it, the defendant had moved from the middle of Sheridan Road to the sidewalk and that is when McGinnis saw a male (Rosenbaum) initially try to engage the defendant. McGinnis stated 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. McGinnis stated that there were other people that were moving very quickly. McGinnis stated that they were moving towards the defendant. McGinnis said that according to what he saw the defendant was trying to evade these individuals.

McGinnis described the point where the defendant had reached the car. McGinnis described that the defendant had the gun in a low ready position. Meaning that he had the gun raised but pointed downward. The butt of the gun would have been at an angle downwards from the shoulder. McGinnis stated that the defendant brought the gun up. McGinnis stated that he stepped back and he thinks the defendant fired 3 rounds in rapid succession.

McGinnis said when the first round went off, he thought it hit the pavement. McGinnis felt something on his leg and his first thought was wondering whether he had gotten shot. McGinnis was behind and slightly to the right of Rosenbaum, in the line of fire, when the defendant shot. McGinnis stated that the first round went into the ground and when the second shot went off, the defendant actually had the gun aimed at Rosenbaum. McGinnis stated he did not hear the two exchange any words.

McGinnis said that the unarmed guy (Rosenbaum) was trying to get the defendant’s gun. McGinnis demonstrated by extending both of his hands in a quick grabbing motion and did that as a visual on how Rosenbaum tried to reach for the defendant’s gun. Detective Cepress indicates that he asked McGinnis if Rosenbaum had his hands on the gun when the defendant shot. McGinnis said that he definitely made a motion that he was trying to grab the barrel of the gun. McGinnis stated that the defendant pulled it away and then raised it. McGinnis stated that right as they came together, the defendant fired. McGinnis said that when Rosenbaum was shot, he had leaned in (towards the defendant).

So, according to prosecutors themselves, Rittenhouse was trying to get away from Rosenbaum, who had started to come after the teenager. Other demonstrators then joined in the pursuit of Rittenhouse, who fired after Rosenbaum reached for the barrel of the gun. That sounds more like a description of someone acting in self-defense than 1st-degree murder to me.

After Rosenbaum was shot, prosecutors say Rittenhouse made a phone call to someone saying that he had killed someone, and then began running from the scene as others pursued him.

A person can be heard yelling what sounds like, “Beat him up!” Another person can be heard yelling what sounds like, “Hey, he shot him!” Your complainant reviewed a fourth video that showed a different angle of the defendant running northbound. In this video a person can be heard yelling, “Get him! Get that dude!” Then a male in a light-colored top runs towards the defendant and appears to swing at the defendant with his right arm. This swing makes contact with the defendant, knocking his hat off. The defendant continues to run northbound. On the video a male can be heard saying something to the effect of, “What’d he do?” Another male can be heard responding something to the effect of, “Just shot someone.” Then a male can be heard yelling, “Get his ass!” The defendant then trips and falls to the ground.

Once Rittenhouse fell to the ground, he was approached by several individuals.

As the defendant is on the ground, an unidentified male wearing a dark-colored top and light colored pants jumps at and over the defendant. Based on the sounds of gunshots on the video and the positioning of the defendant’s gun, it appears that he fires two shots in quick succession at this person. It appears that that person was not hit as he then runs away from the defendant.

A second person who was later identified as Anthony Huber approaches the defendant who is still on the ground, on his back. Huber has a skateboard in his right hand. When Huber reaches the defendant it appears that he is reaching for the defendant’s gun with his left hand as the skateboard makes contact with the defendant’s left shoulder. Huber appears to be trying to pull the gun away from the defendant. The defendant rolls towards his left side and as Huber appears to be trying to grab the gun the gun is pointed at Huber’s body.

The defendant then fires one round which can be heard on the video. Huber staggers away, taking several steps, then collapses to the ground. Huber subsequently died from this gunshot wound. After shooting Huber, the defendant moves to a seated position and points his gun at a third male, later identified as Gaige Grosskreutz, who had begun to approach the defendant.

When the defendant shot Huber, Grosskreutz freezes and ducks and takes a step back. Grosskreutz puts his hands in the air. Grosskreutz then moves towards the defendant who aims his gun at Grosskreutz and shoots him, firing 1 shot. Grosskreutz was shot in the right arm. Grosskreutz appears to be holding a handgun in his right hand when he was shot. Grosskreutz then runs southbound away from the defendant screaming for a medic and the defendant gets up and starts walking northbound. The defendant turns around facing southbound while walking backwards northbound with his firearm in a ready position, pointed towards the people in the roadway.

I’m not an attorney, but none of that sounds like Rittenhouse was the initial aggressor, and in fact it appears that he was trying to flee from his pursuers before the first shots were fired. We’ll see what the D.A.’s office says today in Rittenhouse’s first court hearing, but I suspect that their case is going to revolve around the argument that Rittenhouse went to Kenosha intent on murdering demonstrators or vandals, and therefore the fact that he was being chased is irrelevant.

Even if Rittenhouse broke the law in bringing his rifle to Kenosha, that doesn’t negate his right to act in self-defense. It doesn’t get him off the hook for any firearm violations, but it also doesn’t remove his legal right to protect himself. I was hoping that the prosecutor’s statement of probable cause would provide more answers about the charges that Rittenhouse is facing, but for me anyway the statement raised more questions than answers.

I still believe that Rittenhouse made a mistake by traveling to Kenosha that night, but based on the evidence that prosecutors have released so far, I’m still confused about the charges of first-degree murder filed against the teenager. If there are any criminal defense attorneys or former prosecutors out there who want to provide their perspective, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. I’d love to hear what others have to say.