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Teen charged in Kenosha killings stalls return to Wisconsin

Stephen Groves and Scott Bauer
Associated Press

Kenosha, Wis. – A judge postponed a decision Friday on whether a 17-year-old should be returned to Wisconsin to face charges in the killing of two people on the streets of Kenosha during unrest following the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.

The Illinois judge granted Kyle Rittenhouse’s request to delay the extradition hearing to Sept. 25 during a brief hearing that was streamed online. Rittenhouse, who is being held, did not appear.

Blake’s shooting – which left him paralyzed and was caught on cellphone video – sparked several nights of protests in Kenosha, making it the latest focal point in a reckoning over policing and racial injustice that has gripped the country since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, with backwards cap, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis., Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian.

The protests devolved into violence and vandalism at some points, and the Kenosha police chief told reporters Friday that just under 50 people have been arrested. The National Guard was called in to help patrol the streets, and the commander of the force said Friday over 1,000 guard members had been deployed heading into the weekend when more protests are expected. .

On Tuesday, the third night of protests, Rittenhouse, a white teen who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle, was caught on cellphone video as he walked Kenosha’s streets with other armed civilians, saying he was protecting businesses from vandalism. Prosecutors have accused him of killing two men who tried to disarm him and wounding a third. His lawyers have argued he was acting in self-defense.

Rittenhouse was taken into custody on Wednesday in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from Kenosha. He would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree homicide, the most serious charge. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.

Assistant public defender Jennifer Snyder, who was representing Rittenhouse, asked for a delay in the extradition hearing, so her client would have time to hire a private attorney.

Lee Filas, spokesman for the Lake County, Illinois, state’s attorney, declined to comment on whether other charges were being considered for anyone who may have acted as an accomplice to Rittenhouse.

According to the criminal complaint, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, followed Rittenhouse into a used car lot, where he threw a plastic bag at the teen and attempted to take his weapon. The medical examiner found that Rosenbaum was shot in the groin, back and 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 who shouted that he had shot someone before he tripped and fell, according to the complaint and video footage. Anthony Huber, 26, was shot in the chest after apparently trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse, according to the complaint.

Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, who appeared to be holding a gun, was then shot in the left arm after approaching Rittenhouse, the complaint said.

Another Rittenhouse attorney, Lin Wood, said Thursday that the teenager was acting in self-defense.

“Kyle is an innocent boy who justifiably exercised his fundamental right of self-defense. In doing so, he likely saved his own life and possibly the lives of others,” said Wood.

The weapon Rittenhouse was carrying belonged to a friend, according to a tweet from Wood on Friday. Kenosha Police Chief Dan Miskinis told reporters Friday that he had no details on how Rittenhouse got the gun.

Wisconsin allows gun owners to openly carry in public, but a person under 18 can’t legally possess or carry a firearm unless that person is hunting or target practicing with an adult or in the military.

A self-described Christian fundraising site, GiveSendGo, said on Friday it has raised more than $100,000 for Rittenhouse’s defense.

The Wisconsin Senate will meet Monday after Gov. Tony Evers called a special session to address a package of police reform measures. But the body will not be taking any action that day, according to Dan Romportl, spokesman for Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

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.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said the gunman likely slipped away because the scene was chaotic. Miskinis, the police chief, told reporters Friday that Rittenhouse later turned himself in in Antioch.

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 Rittenhouse.

The state Department of Justice on Friday released new information about the Blake shooting, including the names of two other officers on the scene Sunday.

Authorities said the officers were responding to a call about a domestic dispute when they attempted to arrest Blake, though they didn’t explain why. In cellphone video posted on the internet, two officers can be seen following Blake with their guns drawn as he walks away from them. One then shoots him seven times in the back as he leans into his SUV, in which three of his children were seated.

State authorities identified the officer who shot Blake as Rusten Sheskey. The other two officers were Vincent Arenas, who has been with the department since February 2019 and previously served with the U.S. Capitol Police Department, and Brittany Meronek, who joined the Kenosha police force in January.

Sheskey shot Blake while holding onto his shirt after he and Arenas each unsuccessfully used a Taser on him, according to a news release from the department Friday. State agents later recovered a knife from the floor on the driver’s side of the vehicle, the department said.

Sheskey and Meronek did not respond to emails sent to possible addresses for them, and Arena did not return a phone message left at a possible phone number for him. No one answered the door Thursday at Sheskey’s home.

It was not immediately clear if the officers had attorneys.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Blake said that his client – who had been handcuffed in the hospital – was no longer in restraints.

Online court records indicate Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake on July 6 with sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. An arrest warrant was issued the following day.

Patrick Cafferty, who is representing Blake in that case, said the warrant has now been vacated. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that Blake was no longer in police custody because he had posted bond. As a result, the “hospital watch,” in which deputies were stationed at the hospital, was discontinued.

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Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin; Don Babwin and Sophia Tareen in Chicago; and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed, as did news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York.