Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has ordered 500 National Guard troops to state duty ahead of a verdict in the double-murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha.
The troops will be stationed outside of the city, which is situated along the Lake Michigan coastline, and will be available to respond “if requested by local law enforcement” should there be post-verdict violence, Evers said.
A decision by the jury is expected next week, reports noted.
The Guard troops are to operate “in conjunction with hundreds of officers from volunteering law enforcement agencies,” according to Evers’ office.
“We continue to be in close contact with our partners at the local level to ensure the state provides support and resources to help keep the Kenosha community and greater area safe,” Evers noted in a statement.
The 18-year-old Rittenhouse has been charged with shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, as well as wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, on Aug. 25, 2020, as riots and violence continued in the city following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man who was unarmed and resisting arrest. An officer fired on Blake as he attempted to retrieve a knife from the front floorboard of the vehicle he was driving.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said he was acting in self-defense when he shot the three men. He made that contention during highly emotional testimony earlier this week.
His lawyers rested their case on Thursday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, followed by jury deliberations.
“The Kenosha community has been strong, resilient, and has come together through incredibly difficult times these past two years, and that healing is still ongoing,” Evers said.
“I urge folks who are otherwise not from the area to please respect the community by reconsidering any plans to travel there and encourage those who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to do so safely and peacefully,” he added.
Rittenhouse faces life in prison for one count of first-degree intentional homicide for shooting Huber, who had clubbed the teen over the head with a skateboard and appeared to attempt to grab the AR-15 rifle from Rittenhouse before he fired, according to video clips posted to social media the night of the incident. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence in prison if he’s convicted.
In addition, the teen faces one count of first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Rosenbaum, the first person he shot after he was chased into a car lot by Rosenbaum.
Earlier this week, Rittenhouse broke down on the stand as he attempted to recount various events from the night in question, leading Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder to call a brief recess.
The defense embraced a key moment on Monday when Grosskreutz admitted that Rittenhouse did not fire at him while he had his hands raised but rather when Grosskreutz lifted his own handgun towards the teen and moved in his direction. He also acknowledged that his concealed carry license was expired at the time.
“I believe in the Second Amendment,” Grosskreutz testified. “I’m for people’s right to carry and bear arms. That night was no different than any other day. It’s keys, phone, wallet, gun.”
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