A chaotic protest over the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer left three men shot – two fatally – and a teen facing life imprisonment.
With a jury deliberating the fate of Illinois 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse Wednesday, pro-conviction protesters outside the city’s courthouse are demanding the public remember the men who were shot on Aug. 25 just down the street.
Joseph Rosenbaum, a 36-year-old residing in Kenosha, was the first man who Rittenhouse fatally shot on the evening of Aug. 25, 2020.
Drone footage of the encounter appears to show Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse before the teenager turned around and fired four shots at close range, fatally striking Rosenbaum.
Rittenhouse testified that he acted in self-defense after Rosenbaum threatened to kill him and tried to grab his gun, but prosecutors argued that Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum earlier in the evening.
Moments after Rittenhouse fatally shot Rosenbaum, 26-year-old Anthony Huber chased after the teen and hit him with a skateboard. Rittenhouse then fatally shot Huber once in the chest.
Rittenhouse testified that he acted in self-defense, while prosecutors say that Huber was trying to stop an "active shooter" when he approached the armed teen.
Huber was a Kenosha native who had six siblings. He was an avid skateboarder with a "quick wit and comedic personality," according to his obituary.
His girlfriend, Hannah Gittings, told WTMJ on Wednesday that the trial was "more dramatic than I thought it was going to be."
"I just feel he was so underrepresented in this trial and I don't think that's fair because what he did was assess an active shooter situation and he was just that type of man," Gittings told the local news outlet.
Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Huber's death, a crime that carries a mandatory life sentence.
A third man, 28-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz, was shot once in the arm after approaching Rittenhouse with a handgun.
Grosskreutz testified at trial that he pointed his handgun at Rittenhouse before being shot, but said it was unintentional.
The unrest in Kenosha on Aug. 25 was one night out of about 75 protests that Grosskreutz had attended, he testified at the trial. A trained paramedic, he carried supplies and said he wanted to offer help to anyone needing medical attention.
Grosskreutz also testified that the concealed weapon permit for his handgun was expired the night of the shooting.
Travis McMichael sealed his fate when he took the stand in his own defense in the murder trial related to the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was chased down and killed by three white men in what prosecutors called a "modern-day lynching," legal experts said.
A nearly all-white jury convicted McMichael of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. His father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were acquitted of the top charge and convicted of others, including felony murder.
The defendants had argued self-defense, as well as acting within their rights under Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, which was legal at the time but changed after the shooting.
Once self-defense was claimed, the burden fell on prosecutors to disprove the defense’s argument beyond a reasonable doubt.
But Travis McMichael “really didn’t come off as credible,” criminal defense attorney Bernarda Villalona said on NBC News.
“From Travis McMichael’s own mouth, he knew Ahmaud Arbery was not armed; he knew Ahmaud Arbery didn’t threaten him; he knew Ahmaud Arbery didn’t have anything in his pants,” she said. “The only threat here was two pickup trucks chasing an unarmed African American male.”
Three men found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery Wednesday's verdict came just five days after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was accused of shooting three men, two of them fatally, during protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys argued that their client was the one facing danger after being threatened with a skateboard and chased down the street during his encounters with the men.
That argument and Rittenhouse's own testimony, plus a grainy video played in the courtroom showing chaos in the streets, appeared to support his claim of self-defense.
That wasn't the case during the trial over Arbery's killing.
"Travis McMichael was a horrible witness," said former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. "Rarely have I seen a defendant who's put on the stand by his defense team really perform so poorly."
On the stand last week, Travis McMichael shared his version of what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, when the McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery in their trucks after they spotted him in their neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia.
Unlike the jury in the Arbery trial, the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial found him not guilty.
On Friday, Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two men and injured one more at a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest for Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was acquitted on all five charges he faced. The jury cited self-defense.
"The system of justice works if I look like Kyle Rittenhouse. It does not work if I look like Jacob Blake," said Jacob Blake Sr., the father of Jacob Blake who police officers shot seven times and left paralyzed, to Amy Goodman on "Democracy Now."
None of the three men that Rittenhouse shot were Black, but critics say his acquittal is still evocative of a larger issue: racial injustice.
"It's part of sending a signal about what whiteness is, and it requires whiteness to stay in its place," historian Carol Anderson, told the Center for Public Integrity. "And if you don't stay in your place, there are consequences."
The system of justice works if I look like Kyle Rittenhouse. It does not work if I look like Jacob Blake. Jacob Blake Sr.
Paul Henderson, BNC Legal Contributor, cited "the privilege of white men to drift back and forth between vigilantism on behalf of law enforcement and self-defense on behalf of their own beliefs and fears" on a BNC News episode comparing the Julius Jones commutation to the Kyle Rittenhouse and Ahmaud Arbery trials Friday.
And while Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael are regarded by critics as cases of vigilantism, Julius Jones' life sentence is another reminder to advocates of reform of the injustices in the legal system.
The day before Rittenhouse walked away without charges, Julius Jones, a man who has been on Oklahoma death row since 2002 for the 1999 killing of Paul Howell, narrowly escaped execution.
Jones and his family say that he didn't commit the crime. Others, including the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board and the Innocence Project — also doubt the evidence that led to his conviction.
Governor Kevin Stitt announced an executive order just hours before Jones' scheduled execution. That last-minute commutation came despite a docuseries, calls to justice by organizers and activists nationwide, numerous meeting and outreach attempts from Jones' family, and a recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to grant the man clemency.
"I'm an abolitionist though," Marc Lamont Hill said during BNC's "Amplified with Aisha Mills" on Wednesday. "I don't believe in a world where prisons and police are our primary mechanisms to address harm."
"I'm happy that we didn't have our hearts broken again, but I don't want us to ever confuse what happened [with the Ahmaud Arbery trial] as justice."