A new federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of Anthony Huber, who was allegedly fatally shot by Kyle Rittenhouse during civil unrest last summer, accuses Kenosha, Wis., law enforcement of conspiring with armed individuals patrolling the streets that night.
"Astonishingly, the Kenosha Police Department, Kenosha County Sheriff's Department, and their supervising officials and police officers, did not treat Rittenhouse or any of the other armed individuals patrolling the streets as a threat to the safety of themselves or the citizens they were sworn to protect," the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Division, says.
"Instead, Defendants deputized these armed individuals, conspired with them, and ratified their actions by letting them patrol the streets, armed with deadly weapons, to mete out justice as they saw fit," the lawsuit continues. "In addition, Defendants thanked Rittenhouse and other armed individuals, gave them water, and allowed them to openly defy the emergency curfew order that was in place."
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The lawsuit names the city of Kenosha, Kenosha County, Kenosha County Sheriff David G. Beth, former Kenosha Chief of Police Daniel G. Miskinis, acting Kenosha Chief of Police Eric Larsen and unidentified officers of the Kenosha Police Department and Kenosha County Sheriff's Department as defendants. It does not seek a specific amount in damages.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings on Aug. 25, 2020, is set to stand state trial in November on a slew of charges, including first-degree intentional and reckless homicide in connection to the deadly shootings of Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum. He is also charged with attempted first-degree homicide for allegedly shooting and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz.
"While we understand that the family of Anthony Huber is grieving his loss, we must make it clear that the allegations against Sheriff Beth and the Kenosha Sheriff's Office are demonstrably false," Sam Hall, an attorney representing Kenosha County and Sheriff Beth, said in a statement obtained by the Wall Street Journal. "The facts will show that Mr. Huber's death was not caused by any actions or inactions of Kenosha County law enforcement."
Civil unrest that included looting and arson broke out in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times by a Kenosha officer, Rusten Sheskey, after police responded to a 911 call from the mother of his children on Aug. 23, 2020. Blake was left paralyzed.
Blake also later admitted he had a knife in his possession during the struggle with officers - despite media reports and statements from his attorneys claiming he was unarmed. He also had a felony warrant out for his arrest at the time of the shooting. It wasn't until January that the Kenosha County district attorney announced no officers would face charges in connection to the incident.
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The lawsuit claims that armed individuals arrived in Kenosha in August 2020 in response to a Facebook post by Kevin Mathewson, a former Kenosha alderman who founded a militia group called the Kenosha Guard. He put out a call for "patriots willing to take up arms and defend our City tonight against the evil thugs" and received hundreds of responses from people who planned to respond to the riots.
"Defendants knew about the plans and intentions of the armed individuals, including the social media posts, and the plans and intentions of the pro-militia armed individuals that descended on downtown Kenosha," according to the lawsuit, which also revealed that Mathewson emailed Miskinis to notify him about "volunteers" who intended to patrol the city.
"Protestors yelled to the officers that Rittenhouse had just shot people. Remarkably, the officers did nothing to stop Rittenhouse, let alone question him, or arrest him," the lawsuit alleges. "Instead, officers spoke to Rittenhouse and then let him walk away. The only reason Defendants allowed Rittenhouse to walk away after shooting three people was because he was white and because he was affiliated with the armed individuals, who had Defendants' explicit support."
"If a Black person had approached police with an assault rifle, offering to patrol the streets with the police, he most likely would have been shot dead," the lawsuit claims. "If a Black child had shot three citizens with an assault rifle and was seen walking away from the scene of the shooting with the assault rifle in hand, while other citizens yelled he was an active shooter, he would have been shot dead."
Rittenhouse's lawyers have repeatedly claimed their client had traveled from Antioch, Ill., to Kenosha on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, to protect local businesses from rioters and looting. His defense team has also repeatedly maintained that Rittenhouse fired in self-defense.
According to the initial criminal complaint, several videos reviewed by law enforcement show Rittenhouse running across a parking lot with an AR-15-style long gun in hand, as Rosenbaum, who was unarmed, chases after him. Rittenhouse shoots Rosenbaum, and a local reporter begins rendering aid.
The reporter stated that Rosenbaum had attempted to get Rittenhouse's gun, according to the complaint. Another cellphone video from the scene shows Huber, with a skateboard in hand, wrestling Rittenhouse on the ground for his gun. Rittenhouse fires one shot, killing Huber. He then "moves to a seated position and points his gun" at Grosskreutz, who has his hands up and moves toward Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse then shoots him.
The federal civil rights lawsuit filed this week categorizes Huber as a "hero" who tried to "disarm" Rittenhouse.