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A judge agreed Friday to delay for a month a decision on whether a 17-year-old from Illinois should be returned to Wisconsin to face charges accusing him of fatally shooting two protesters and wounding a third during a night of unrest following last weekend's police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.
The judge in Waukegan, Illinois, postponed Kyle Rittenhouse's extradition hearing to Sept. 25 during a brief video conference that was streamed online. Rittenhouse asked for the delay in order to have time to hire a private attorney. He faces five felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, and a misdemeanor charge for possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor.
Rittenhouse did not appear during the livestreamed hearing. His current attorney, Lake County, Illinois, assistant public defender Jennifer Snyder, said Rittenhouse had spoken by phone with his mother since his arrest Wednesday.
Lee Filas, spokesman for the Lake County state’s attorney, said Rittenhouse plans to hire Los Angeles-based attorney John Pierce and that Rittenhouse’s presence at Friday's hearing had been waived. Filas said the Sept. 25 hearing will look similar to Friday's, in that Rittenhouse will have the opportunity to either waive his right to an extradition hearing or proceed with one.
Filas declined to comment on whether other charges were being considered for anyone who may have acted as an accomplice to Rittenhouse by driving him to the protest.
Rittenhouse, a white teen who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle as he walked Kenosha's streets with other armed civilians during this week's protests, would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
He was taken into custody on Wednesday in Antioch, Illinois, the city about 15 miles from Kenosha where he lives.
The shootings late Tuesday were largely caught on cellphone video and posted online. The shooting by police on Sunday of Blake, a 29-year-old Black father of six who was left paralyzed from the waist down, was also caught on cellphone video. That shooting made Kenosha the latest focal point in the fight against racial injustice that has gripped the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Three nights later, Rittenhouse was armed and on the streets of Kenosha, saying that he was protecting businesses from protesters, according to widely circulating cellphone footage.
The criminal complaint said that Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, following Rittenhouse into a used car lot, where he threw a plastic bag at the gunman and attempted to take the weapon from him. The medical examiner found that Rosenbaum was shot in the groin and back — which fractured his pelvis and perforated his right lung and liver — and his left hand. He also suffered a superficial wound to his left thigh and a graze wound to his forehead.
Rittenouse then ran down the street and was chased by several people shouting that he just shot someone before he tripped and fell, according to the complaint and video footage. Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, was shot in the chest after apparently trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse, the complaint said.
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.
“From my standpoint, it’s important that the message be clear to other Americans who are attacked that there will be legal resources available in the event false charges are brought against them,” he said. “Americans should never be deterred from exercising their right of self-defense.”
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, with lots of radio traffic and people screaming, chanting and running — conditions he said can cause “tunnel vision” among law officers.
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.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on Thursday decried how Rittenhouse, whom he described as a vigilante accountable to nobody, could walk away while police talked about finding a knife inside Blake’s vehicle after he was shot in the back.
He said the fact that Rittenhouse and others came to Kenosha to take matters into their own hands “was completely horrifying.”
The state Department of Justice on Friday released new information, including the names of two other officers on the scene when Blake was shot in the back seven times Sunday as he leaned into his SUV, in which three of his children were seated.
State authorities earlier identified the officer who shot Blake as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department. 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.
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. Sheskey shot Blake while holding onto his shirt after he and Arenas unsuccessfully used Tasers on him twice, the department said in a Friday news release. State agents later recovered a knife from the floor on the driver’s side of the vehicle, the department said. State authorities did not say Blake threatened anyone with a knife.
Blake’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday that he was upset to learn his son was handcuffed to the hospital bed.
“He can’t go anywhere. Why do you have him cuffed to the bed?” said his father, also named Jacob Blake.
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.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that all hospitalized patients in police custody are restrained unless undergoing medical procedures, and that it was working “to ensure a safe and humane environment for Mr. Blake.”
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