Rittenhouse verdict proves the country needs change

After recklessly trying to subdue a protest with a semiautomatic rifle and shooting three people, Rittenhouse should have been found guilty on at least one charge.

By Edward Segal, Staff Writer

Eighteen year-old defendant Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on Nov. 19 by jurors on all five charges against him. (Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

Acquitting a man who went out of his way to kill two people and shoot another in a public area is a recipe for the destruction of the country as we know it. Even if Kyle Rittenhouse’s two killings are justified, his shooting of Grosskreutz should have at least rendered a guilty verdict on the charge of reckless endangerment, maybe even attempted murder.

The unrest in Kenosha began after police shot Jacob Blake, a 29 year-old black man in August 2020, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The protests brought arson throughout the city, which included burning three garbage trucks that were used to block the entrance to the Kenosha County Courthouse, according to USA Today.

With civil unrest spread across the city, Rittenhouse decided it was his job to try and keep the protests peaceful.

Rittenhouse travelled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch Illinois about 20 miles away in order to, as he said, defend the town from violent protesters. The teenager, 17 years old at the time, said that he shot Joseph Rosenbaum for threatening to kill him and grabbing his gun, and Anthony Huber for attacking him with a skateboard, according to NBC. Rittenhouse said that the third person he shot and wounded, Gaige Grosskreutz, pointed a pistol at his head. Grosskreutz, who was there to provide first aid, testified that he was raising his hands in an effort to surrender.

The jury allowed Rittenhouse to get away with murder after deciding he killed two people and injured another in response to them attacking him, as stated by the National Public Radio.

Lumen Learning defines self-defense through several elements. One of the elements pertains to the force with which the person who was attacked defended themselves. Rittenhouse had a chance while running to shoot in the air to scare the assailants first, and if that did not work, he could have tried shooting them in an appendage.

The final element is that the initial attack must have been unprovoked. Bringing a semiautomatic rifle to a protest is enough provocation to warrant being attacked, at least subdued.

What Rittenhouse did is reckless. Any sane person going into the streets with a semiautomatic rifle should expect to be attacked and subdued.

Not only did Rittenhouse disregard human safety, but he was also under the legal age of 18 to buy a gun in Wisconsin, though he was old enough to carry one for hunting purposes, according to the Giffords Law Center.

The Illinois man faced two charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, which is punishable by 12.5 years in prison, with an additional five years due to his use of a dangerous weapon, as stated on the AP News. He should have been found guilty on at least one of those charges for carrying an assault weapon and shooting someone who did not present a threat.

This case has been compared to that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was killed in South Georgia by three people who believed him to be guilty of breaking into people’s houses in the area. According to the New York Times, the trio was found guilty on murder charges because a video was found showing them chasing Arbery. In the Rittenhouse case, a similar video was found, but it showed Rittenhouse being chased by Rosenbaum, followed by the Illinois man turning around and firing at his pursuer.

The main question that must be asked in these cases is who provoked whom. In the Arbery case, it was clear that the shooters chased him based on their suspicion that he was guilty. Rittenhouse, on the other hand, was chased because people saw him with a semiautomatic weapon. He was not protecting his own property and shot the victims in public after putting himself in that situation by bringing a gun to the protest. In both cases, the shooters provoked the victims, though in different ways, warranting a guilty verdict.

Morally, both sets of shooters felt obligated to protect their town, but did it the wrong way. Legally, it is unclear as to what is self-defense, though they had no grounds on which to shoot Arbery at the moment, and Rittenhouse could have handled the situation differently.

While it is understandable for a person to be found innocent after killing two individuals if they attacked first, it is imperative that some form of punishment is levied if that person shot another individual who wasn’t attacking, and put themselves in that situation by brandishing a semiautomatic weapon in the streets.

The United States is in the middle of a crisis as the social injustice the nation was founded on has finally boiled over. Going out of one’s way to play vigilante against protesters the way Rittenhouse did in Wisconsin is not the way to solve the country’s problems.

At least one guilty verdict on the charge of reckless endangerment would have been the appropriate decision.