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Teen accused in Kenosha shootings will not face gun charges in Illinois, prosecutors say

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim speaks to the media outside of the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Wisconsin, on September 25, 2020. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
October 14, 2020

Kyle Rittenhouse will not face gun charges in Illinois related to the AR-15-style weapon he is charged with using to kill two men and wound a third during violent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

An Antioch police investigation found that the Smith & Wesson .223 caliber rifle “was purchased, stored and used in Wisconsin” and turned up no evidence the 17-year-old “physically possessed” the weapon in Illinois, according to a news release from the office of Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim. The news release does not reveal who is believed to have bought or held the gun before the shooting.

The Antioch teen, however, still faces a gun charge in Wisconsin, as Kenosha County prosecutors have charged him with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, a misdemeanor. His attorney, John M. Pierce argued on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show in late August that the charge is “incorrect as a matter of state law” and that the U.S. Constitution and federal law protect the teen’s right to have the gun, though he did not go into detail on that legal argument.

Little has been made public about the gun’s history or the teen’s potential licensure to have firearms, so it’s unclear what _ if any _ charges Rittenhouse or anyone else might have faced here if the investigation had found he possessed it locally. An attorney working with Rittenhouse’s legal team has said the gun belonged to an unidentified friend of the teenager.

Antioch police could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Pierce, declined to comment.

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Along with the gun charge, Kenosha County prosecutors have charged him with murder and other counts alleging he shot three men with the rifle Aug. 25 during violent protests over white police Officer Rusten Sheskey’s shooting of 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake a couple of days earlier.

Rittenhouse’s lawyers have argued he shot the three men in self-defense.

Prosecutors and Rittenhouse’s lawyers are currently battling over whether he’ll be returned to Wisconsin to face those charges. His attorneys argued against his extradition in a petition last week, contending in part that sending the teen to adult jail in Kenosha County would endanger him. Lake County prosecutors are due to file their counterarguments this week and Judge Paul Novak has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Oct. 30.

Videos show that Rittenhouse was among numerous civilians armed with rifles nearby the protests, property destruction and looting that followed Blake’s shooting.

Kenosha County prosecutors wrote that video showed the teen running across a parking lot, trailed by Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha. Video showed Rosenbaum appearing to throw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse and missing him, prosecutors wrote. A witness told police that Rosenbaum, who appeared on video to be unarmed, had tried to grab the gun before he was fatally shot, prosecutors wrote.

The teen’s lawyers contended in their petition last week that someone other than Rosenbaum had fired a gun in Rittenhouse’s direction just before the confrontation that killed Rosenbaum. The filing alleged that Rosenbaum had threatened Rittenhouse before chasing the teen and lunging for his rifle. The teen fired “under grave risk of immediate harm,” the petition stated.

Rittenhouse then ran before someone knocked off his hat, and he tripped and fell, prosecutors wrote. Then, Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, Wisconsin, approached Rittenhouse with a skateboard as the teen was still on his back, prosecutors wrote. Huber tried to grab the gun as the skateboard “(made) contact” with Rittenhouse’s shoulder before the gunman fired one shot, and Huber collapsed and died, prosecutors alleged.

Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued in their filing that the skateboard hit Rittenhouse’s head and he shot Huber as they wrestled for control of the rifle.

Prosecutors wrote that Rittenhouse then shot a man who had approached him, Gaige Grosskreutz, of West Allis, Wisconsin. Grosskreutz appeared to be holding a handgun when he was wounded in the arm, prosecutors wrote.

The filing the teen’s lawyers made alleged Grosskreutz “lowered his handgun in Rittenhouse’s direction.”

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(c) 2020 Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.