Tragedy in Kenosha

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It is almost impossible to say anything about the events surrounding Kyle Rittenhouse without asking for trouble from one side or the other of the debate, or even from both sides. The whole mess was a tragedy waiting to happen. Given the circumstances in Kenosha on the night of August 25, 2020, it would have been almost miraculous had the night passed without some significant calamity.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Kyle Rittenhouse is nobody’s hero. Regardless of his intentions, he had no business being on the streets of Kenosha that night armed with an AR-15, or any other weapon. I had read that he now regrets his decision to go to Kenosha that night. Hindsight is always 20/20. Unfortunately, foresight rarely is, especially in the eyes of a teenager who regards himself a member of a city militia.

On the other hand, many facts related to Rittenhouse’s actions have been misrepresented by the media and by activists (yes, I know, these two terms are sadly becoming synonymous). For instance, Rittenhouse is not an outsider to Kenosha. While Rittenhouse lives with his mother in Antioch, IL, about 20 miles from Kenosha, WI, his father lives in Kenosha and he has worked there as a lifeguard. Rittenhouse did not carry the AR-15 across state lines. Knowing he was too young to purchase the gun, Rittenhouse asked and paid his adult friend, Dominick Black, to purchase it for him four months prior to the events of August, 2020. Black kept the AR-15 at his house in Kenosha, and Rittenhouse retrieved it from there. There is no evidence that Rittenhouse has any connections to white supremacist groups. All of the men Rittenhouse shot were White, not Black.

Following the shooting of Jacob Blake by the police on August 23, 2020, protests erupted in Kenosha that turned violent. Businesses were attacked and burned. A Kenosha Guard militia group had been formed in response to the riots following the murder of George Floyd in June, 2020 by former Kenosha alderman Kevin Mathewson. Many were unsatisfied with what they regarded as the inadequate response of the police and National Guard to the rioting following Blake’s shooting. Mathewson called for the Kenosha Guard to “take up arms and defend Kenosha” in response to the riotous protests. Many people came to Kenosha claiming to want to defend its businesses. On August 25, Black and Rittenhouse, who were already in Kenosha, went to the downtown area and took up the defense of Car Source, an auto dealership, that had suffered extensive damage on the previous two nights. In a tragic sequence of events, Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and he severely injured Gaige Grosskreutz.

Joseph Rosenbaum was no hero. He had a history of violence, including the sexual abuse of prepubescent children, and was a registered sex offender. Was he on the streets of Kenosha that night to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake? Maybe. But, it’s not irrational to speculate that a violent man was on the streets of a city suffering a violent outbreak of riots for other reasons. Witnesses testified that Rosenbaum was aggressive and agitated that night, going around hurling racial slurs, carrying a chain, starting fires, threatening to kill those protecting businesses, and actually shouting for people to shoot him (what that was about, one can only guess, though Rosenbaum was bi-polar and reportedly off his medication). Witnesses also testified, and video confirms, that it was Rosenbaum who pursued Rittenhouse, not the other way around. Despite Rittenhouse shouting, “Friendly, friendly, friendly,” Rosenbaum chased down and caught up to Rittenhouse, then lunged for him, grabbing for his gun. It was then that Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum.

After killing Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse started running toward the police. His AR-15 was pointed down. This is clearly seen in the videos taken of him that night running toward the line of police. As he ran, he was chased down by others, apparently angry at his having shot Rosenbaum. He was struck in the head, tripped, and fell to the ground. At this point, a man kicked or attempted to kick Rittenhouse in the head. Rittenhouse fired at him but, thankfully, missed. That’s when Anthony Huber got into the act.

Anthony Huber was no hero. Despite interviews with friends who say he was a happy guy, sweet and gentle-natured, Huber had a long history of violence himself, including domestic battery, false imprisonment (how’d he earn that charge, I wonder?), strangulation and suffocation, stabbing his brother with a knife, karate kicking his sister, and threatening to kill his family and burn their house down. Was Huber on the streets of Kenosha that night to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake? Maybe. But, again, it’s not irrational to speculate that a violent man was on the streets of a city suffering a violent outbreak of riots for other reasons. Witnesses testified, and video confirms, that Huber struck Rittenhouse with his skateboard while Rittenhouse was on the ground, hitting him in the shoulder, and that Huber grabbed for Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse shot Huber in the chest, killing him. That’s when Gaige Grosskreutz got into the act.

Gaige Grosskreutz is no hero. Grosskreutz is a medic, certified as an EMT, and he has served as a medic at other protests. (Rittenhouse had lied and told people that night that he was a medic. He is not. He did, reportedly, stop to assist someone who had been injured. His other activities that night, besides guarding Car Source, included cleaning off graffiti and trying to put out fires set by arsonists). Grosskreutz also has an extensive criminal record, including a felony conviction that was expunged, though his history is not as violent as Rosenbaum and Huber’s. Grosskreutz was the only person shot by Rittenhouse that night who survived. Grosskreutz testified that he ran after Rittenhouse because he thought he was an active shooter. Okay, that was dumb. Unless you’re a cop or a soldier, trained in eliminating the threat of an active shooter, you don’t run toward an active shooter. You take cover or run away from them. Anyway, Grosskreutz said he ran after Rittenhouse and, finding him on the ground after he had just shot Huber, raised his hands and backed away. By his own testimony in court, Grosskreutz said that Rittenhouse did not aim his rifle, much less fire at him, while Grosskreutz had his hands raised. It was only after Grosskreutz pointed his own gun at Rittenhouse that Rittenhouse shot him in the arm. Grosskreutz, in a later interview with Good Morning America, tried to claim that he did not point his gun at Rittenhouse, or at least did not point his gun “intentionally,” whatever that means. So, Grosskreutz contradicted his own testimony under oath. Either Grosskreutz lied in his interview with GMA or he perjured himself in court. My question is, why does a medic carry a gun? Why did Grosskreutz chase after Rittenhouse, whom he thought was an active shooter? Why did Grosskreutz point his gun at Rittenhouse? Generally, if you point a gun at someone who also has a gun, and who you just witnessed shoot another person, the likelihood of getting shot is pretty high.

The prosecutors for Rittenhouse’s case overcharged him, probably feeling the pressure from the media and activists who smelled blood and demanded that Rittenhouse burn. Their case quickly fell to pieces, even under the testimony of their own witnesses, which actually supported Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense (see Grosskreutz above). The prosecution also did a couple of really bizarre things. First, they claimed that you lose the right to self-defense if you’re the one who brings a gun to a fight. Uh, no … you don’t. Second, the prosecutor picked up Rittenhouse’s AR-15 in the courtroom and pointed it at the jury with his finger on the trigger. I have no idea what point he was trying to make, and I suspect the jury didn’t real care what point he was trying to make. Even in a court of law where the gun is certainly unloaded, that’s quite an intimidating act. I don’t think these lost the case for the prosecution. I don’t think there was a case for murder there in the first place. But, WOW! Just … WOW!

Kyle Rittenhouse is not a hero. But neither is he a murderer. He is a stupid kid who did a stupid thing in going to downtown Kenosha to protect a business with which he had no association. He put himself in a place where bad things were happening and, guess what? bad things happened. Kenosha was burning on the night of August 25, 2020. A seventeen-year-old kid had no business being there, much less with a gun of any kind. It’s no surprise that violent men acting violently are dead. It’s no surprise that a wickedly stupid medic with a gun got shot when he pointed that gun at a kid who also had a gun. If anything is surprising, it’s that Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t dead. There were lots of people on the streets of Kenosha with guns that night, and Rittenhouse was hardly the only one firing his.

There are a lot of lessons a nation torn by civil and political strife could learn from this case. Sadly, based on the initial response to the verdict, no one has any intention of learning them. Democrats and liberals are lambasting the verdict as further evidence of a hopelessly racist justice system. Protesters in Chicago were shouting for a Communist revolution! Republicans and conservatives are lionizing Rittenhouse as a patriot and paragon of self-defense. Yeah, sure. Put yourself in a situation where violent men are likely to attack you, and I guess you get to defend yourself. But, why put yourself there in the first place? No, I don’t think Rittenhouse was looking for trouble. But he was expecting it. Clearly, he was too young and inexperienced to know how to respond. So, he never should have been there.

You know what? The opposite is also true. Put yourself in a place where good men and women are likely to be open to the movement of God’s grace, and God’s grace is likely to move. Maybe it’s time we gave that a try.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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