As Rittenhouse Trial Ends, Lawsuits Over Kenosha Unrest Continue
Civil lawsuits accuse the authorities of wrongdoing, both during the turbulence in the city and in the police shooting that sparked it.
Other legal fallout from the violence in Kenosha is still playing out in the courts.
Nov. 19, 2021, 7:38 p.m. ET
By Dan Hinkel
Police officers clashing with protesters outside the Kenosha County Courthouse on Aug. 25, 2020, two days after a police shooting that set off the unrest.Credit…David Goldman/Associated Press
Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial has shined a searchlight on the violence and destruction that enveloped Kenosha, Wis., for several days in August 2020. But the not-guilty verdicts in the trial will not be the final word on those events.
Civil lawsuits are pending in federal court that accuse the authorities of wrongdoing, both during the turbulence in the city and in the police shooting that instigated it. Here is a look at some of the unresolved cases.
Lawsuit by Jacob Blake
The episode that first prompted the angry demonstrations in Kenosha was the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer, Rusten Sheskey, on Aug. 23, 2020. Mr. Blake was hit by seven shots — including several that struck him in the back — in an encounter that was captured on video. Acts of arson and vandalism during and after the demonstrations are what drew some armed civilians, including Mr. Rittenhouse, to downtown Kenosha. They have said they intended to guard businesses.
Michael Graveley, the Kenosha County district attorney, announced in January that neither Officer Sheskey nor Mr. Blake, who had a knife when officers were struggling to arrest him on a warrant for a sexual assault charge, would be charged in connection with the encounter.
Mr. Blake sued Officer Sheskey in federal court in March, saying that the officer violated his civil rights by using excessive force. Officer Sheskey’s lawyers have denied the allegations in court.
Lawsuit by Anthony Huber’s family
The most serious charge in Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial, first-degree intentional homicide, concerns Anthony Huber, the second man Mr. Rittenhouse fatally shot on Aug. 25, 2020.
Mr. Huber’s parents filed suit in federal court in August 2021 against the Kenosha Police Department, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and others, including Sheriff David Beth and the current and former city police chiefs. The suit accuses the defendants, among other things, of allowing civilians like Mr. Rittenhouse to “patrol the streets, armed with deadly weapons, to mete out justice as they saw fit,” and of actively enabling and conspiring with them.
The suit portrays Mr. Huber as a “hero” who tried to disarm Mr. Rittenhouse by hitting him with a skateboard after Mr. Rittenhouse had shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum.
The defendants have filed motions asking the court to dismiss the case. A lawyer for the county defendants, Samuel Hall, called the allegations “demonstrably false.” A lawyer for city officials declined to comment.
Lawsuit by Gaige Grosskreutz
Mr. Grosskreutz was the third man shot by Mr. Rittenhouse. He was badly wounded but survived, and he testified in Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial.
His suit in federal court levels accusations similar to those in the Huber family’s lawsuit against several of the same defendants. The suit states that Mr. Grosskreutz, who was approaching Mr. Rittenhouse with a handgun when he was shot, lost 90 percent of his right biceps as a result.
As of earlier this month, none of the authorities named as defendants had yet responded in court to Mr. Grosskreutz’s lawsuit. Mr. Hall, the lawyer for county officials, noted that Mr. Grosskreutz had not sued Mr. Rittenhouse.
Mr. Grosskreutz’s lawyer, Kimberley Motley, also represents the estate of Mr. Rosenbaum, the first man Mr. Rittenhouse shot. No litigation has been filed so far on behalf of Mr. Rosenbaum’s survivors.