KENOSHA, Wis. — A 17-year-old from Illinois accused of killing two men during an August protest in Wisconsin was due in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing in the case.
Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, is also charged in the wounding of a third person on Aug. 25 during a night of unrest in Kenosha that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a local Black man.
Rittenhouse told police he was attacked while guarding a business and that he fired in self-defence. He was freed from jail last month after posting $2 million bond, with most of the money raised through a legal defence fund set up by conservatives portraying him as a patriot protecting other people’s property.
Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have painted Rittenhouse as a trigger-happy white supremacist.
Rittenhouse is charged with homicide and attempted homicide for fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz.
A preliminary hearing is the stage at which a court decides whether enough evidence exists to proceed to trial. The Kenosha County district attorney’s office didn’t respond to interview requests, and Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards declined an interview ahead of Thursday’s hearing.
In a filing this week, Richards asked the court to dismiss two of the six counts against Rittenhouse. He argued that a misdemeanour count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 isn’t supported by the law — an argument that the court already rejected once.
Richards also sought the dismissal of a felony count against Rittenhouse for recklessly endangering the public’s safety by using a dangerous weapon. Richards said the state offered no proof to substantiate that charge, which was based on witness Richard McGinnis’ account of Rittenhouse firing his gun with McGinnis in the line of fire.
The shootings happened two days after a white police officer trying to arrest Blake shot the 29-year-old seven times in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down. Video of the shooting sparked several nights of protests in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 near the Wisconsin-Illinois border.
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