KENOSHA, WI – As a jury of 12 Kenosha County residents contemplate the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two men and wounded a third amid last summer’s unrest, Jacob Blake, the man partially paralyzed in the police shooting that started the fire. Protests, miles away in Chicago, where he is undergoing physical therapy in an attempt to walk again.
His uncle, Justin Blake, who remained on the stairs outside the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for most of Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial, said Mr. Blake, 30, had set a goal of walking alone by next summer.
Justin Blake said of Jacob Blake, whose uncle said he didn’t follow every turn in the Rittenhouse trial and instead focused his attention on recovery: “He’s had bad days, no doubt, but he’s very grateful to be alive” and a new side hustle, T-shirt printing . “He needs to focus on himself, focus on his kids and his new nature,” Justin Blake said.
In August 2020, Jacob Blake was training to become a mechanic and living in Kenosha when a woman with several children called 911 and said he was about to go by car in her rental car. Within minutes, Kenosha police officers arrived at the woman’s home, where authorities later said they planned to arrest Mr. Blake based on a pending warrant for sexual assault charges that was eventually dropped.
When Mr. Blake, who is black, appeared to attempt to enter the car with knife in hand, white officer Rustin Chesky shot him seven times. Many of Mr. Blake’s children were in the back seat of the car.
The police shooting, which was captured on video of a bystander, came during a summer of anger and demonstrations across the country over police violence in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Protests broke out in Kenosha as well, but attention soon turned from the shooting of Mr. Blake to the fires and looting that were unfolding in Kenosha.
Just days after Mr. Blake was shot, Mr. Rittenhouse, who lived about 30 minutes away in Antioch, Illinois, brought a semi-automatic rifle that had been stockpiled in Wisconsin to downtown Kenosha, where he said he wanted to protect business and provide medical care.
Mr. Rittenhouse, 18, who faces five criminal charges, testified that he was defending himself against the three men who shot them during a chaotic evening on the streets of Kenosha.
He is accused of reckless murder in the first shooting, in which he killed Joseph Rosenbaum, whom Mr. Rittenhouse said was chasing and darting towards his rifle.
After Mr. Rittenhouse fell to the ground as he ran away from a group of people who were pursuing him after the first shot, he shot Anthony Hopper, who was swinging him in the face with a skateboard. He was charged with premeditated murder – a charge often called murder in other states – in the death of Mr. Hopper, who was a friend of Jacob Blake and was there for protests.
Seconds later, Mr. Rittenhouse shot another man in the crowd, Gaige Grosskreutz, after Mr. Grosskreutz moved towards him with a pistol, counting the number of attempted murders. He also faces two counts of endangering his safety by aiming his gun at two people.
Jurors began deliberating on the charges shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday and returned home in the evening without reaching a verdict. They will return on Wednesday morning for further deliberations.
The group of 18 potential jurors who watched the trial were sorted into 12 through an unusual but traditional process in Judge Bruce Schroeder’s court. Eighteen slips of paper with juror numbers were placed in a brown container which they were wrapped around, and then Mr. Rittenhouse himself drew six sheets of paper from the strange instrument; These jurors were dismissed, although they were required to remain in the courtroom as an alternative in the event that one of the twelve jurors became ill or dismissed during deliberations.
Criminal charges against Kyle Rittenhouse
Count 1: A first-degree stray murder. Kyle Rittenhouse is charged with this crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Joseph D. Rosenbaum. Under Wisconsin law, a crime is defined as causing reckless death under circumstances that show complete disregard for human life.
As they deliberated, the jurors requested copies of the first part of the jury’s instructions relating to self-defense. Later, they asked for the rest of the instructions. Otherwise, they had no questions for the judge on Tuesday.
Outside the courtroom, a small group of Mr. Rittenhouse’s supporters and detractors met, occasionally squabbling with one another in front of a crowd of reporters.
Justin Blake, Mr. Blake’s uncle, spent most days on the steps of the court, waving an African flag and saying he believed Mr. Rittenhouse should be found guilty. Bishop Tavis Grant, a pastor and activist in East Chicago, Indiana, said he hoped the interest in Rittenhouse’s trial would lead to further scrutiny of another decision he found unacceptable: the choice of the Kenosha County District Attorney, announced in January, not to indict Officer Shesky in the firing. Shot on Jacob Blake.
Mr. Blake has rarely spoken in public since the shooting, but told CNN in August that he “disapproved” of the devastating protests over police behavior, but understood why they were happening. He also said he believed Mr. Rittenhouse was treated differently by the police because he was white.
“For the reasons they said they shot him, they had every reason to shoot him, but they didn’t,” CNN quoted Mr. Blake as saying of Mr. Rittenhouse. “Honestly, if he had a different skin tone – and I’m not biased or racist – he would probably have been labeled a terrorist.”
On Tuesday, Justin Blake said it was important for his nephew to keep busy.
“He’s just trying to do something that turns him on and makes his mind move and keeps him from thinking about bad things,” said Justin Blake. “It’s Blake. We shiver and go. It’s in our DNA – we don’t stop.”
Julie BosmanAnd Dan Hinkle And Sergio Olmos Reporting contributed by Kenosha.