WISCONSIN, United States: A high-profile lawyer representing the 17-year-old shooter charged with killing two protesters and wounding another during demonstrations on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin said on Friday (Aug 28) that his client had acted in self-defense.
Atlanta-based attorney Lin Wood said video footage of the altercation would vindicate Kyle Rittenhouse despite what he described as misinformation being spread by the media.
"Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. Murder charges are factually unsupportable. An egregious miscarriage of justice is occurring with respect to this 17-year old boy," Wood said on Twitter.
Rittenhouse, who prosecutors say travelled 30 miles to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois before the shooting at about 11.45pm on Tuesday, is charged with six criminal counts, including homicide and attempted homicide.
The criminal complaint accuses Rittenhouse of firing an assault-style rifle at three protesters who tried to subdue him, killing 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, 26.
It references several videos recorded by witnesses, including one in which Rittenhouse is seen calling a friend from the scene and telling them: "I just killed somebody."
A Lake County, Illinois county judge on Friday postponed his extradition to Wisconsin while the teenage defendant arranged a private legal team. Rittenhouse, a former YMCA lifeguard who is being held without bond, did not appear at the livestreamed hearing.
SUMMER OF PROTESTS
The shooting of Blake in front of three of his children has turned Kenosha, a predominantly white city of about 100,000 people on Lake Michigan, into the latest flashpoint in ongoing nationwide protests over police brutality and racism.
It also galvanised protesters who gathered in Washington on Friday to commemorate the 1963 march where Martin Luther King Jr made his historic "I Have a Dream" speech.
The summer of protests ignited after video footage showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a Black man, George Floyd. Floyd later died and the since-fired officer has been charged with murder.
Blake, who was left paralysed by the shooting, had been handcuffed to a hospital bed because of an outstanding arrest warrant. The handcuffs were removed on Friday and officers guarding Blake stood down after the warrant was vacated, his attorney, Pat Cafferty, told Reuters.
The warrant was based on a criminal complaint filed against Blake in July by his ex-girlfriend, the mother of three of his children, that was released to Reuters on Friday.
In the complaint, the woman told police Blake broke into her home on May 3 and sexually assaulted her before stealing her truck and debit card.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said earlier this week that police had been seeking Blake in connection with his former girlfriend's complaint at the time of the shooting and that investigators recovered a knife from the floor of the car that Blake was leaning into when he was shot.
Blake's lead attorney, Ben Crump, has said his client had no knife in his possession and did not provoke or threaten police.
'WE LOVE KENOSHA'
In Kenosha, volunteers helped business owners clean up after days of rioting and arson that followed the shooting in the back of a Black man, 29-year-old Jacob Blake, by a white police officer, some painting "Black Lives Matter" or "We Love Kenosha" on boarded up storefronts.
"I'm angry," said factory worker John Hall, as he helped paint messages on a storefront. "Some people who did this don't even live here. This is the only stores that we have."
Hall, a father of three who moved to Kenosha from Chicago eight years ago to raise his children in a safer community, said the painted messages were meant to signal hope, adding: "Slowly but surely we will get this back and rebuild."
More than 1,000 National Guard members were on the ground in Kenosha on Friday in case of further violence, Major General Paul Knapp told a news conference.
Demonstrators have demanded that criminal charges be filed against three police officers involved in Blake's arrest and shooting. Authorities say officer Rusten Sheskey fired all seven shots at Blake's back. Sheskey has been placed on leave.
The Wisconsin Justice Department, which is handling the investigation, said on Friday that Sheskey and another officer, Vincent Arenas, attempted to stop Blake with Tasers before Sheskey discharged his gun.
It was the first time the identity of Arenas, a Kenosha police officer since February 2019, was disclosed. The department identified the third officer as Brittany Meronek, who joined the force last January.