“I’ll just pull out my Glock/HK/Ruger and deal with those punks. Once they see their buddies drop, they’ll back off soon enough.”
“We could end this by just killing anyone who sets foot on our block.”
“All good Americans need to do is start mowing down protesters with their cars if the roads get blocked.”
Chances are, if you ever read the comments or visit any type of social media outlet online, you’ve read some comments pretty similar to the ones above. After all, this is America, land of the free, home of the brave. It’s up to all good patriots to defend our property and our country from scumbags with deadly force.
But not so fast…
Things are never as cut and dried as people with 3-second solutions like to make it seem in the comments.
You can’t escalate directly to lethal force in every situation.
Let’s take a look at the situation Terry Trahan wrote about the other day, where the lady was sitting in a restaurant having dinner when she got surrounded by an unruly mob who insisted she raise her fist in the air in support of a group of activists. The comments section is filled with people who are apparently ready to open fire on a city street into a crowd of people.
Is that really the appropriate response? While I absolutely agree that the behavior of that mob is horrible and that these things shouldn’t happen, is this a moment that requires the use of uncensored deadly force?
Have any of these folks stopped to think about what happens after they open fire?
Because I can tell you what is very likely to occur if you unload a magazine in a public space in the middle of downtown Washington DC. At best, you will be arrested and charged with brandishing a weapon or illegal discharge of a weapon. At worst, one of your bullets will go through its intended target and hit an innocent bystander – maybe a child – maybe even your own child who is making his way back from the bathroom. Or you’ll kill a member of the angry mob and someone will take the gun away and turn it on you and you’ll be dead. Or you’ll valiantly take down three attackers and find yourself awaiting trial for homicide, among other charges.
And you know what else? Every idiotic off-hand comment you ever made online about blowing people away will come back to haunt you in court. If you think you’re anonymous online, I assure you that you are not. Even when you use a VPN, your actual IP can be traced given enough resources and time.
Choosing how you escalate your response
We’ve all heard the saying, “When your only tool is a hammer, you treat everything like it’s a nail.” The same is true when your only tool is deadly force.
Obviously there are life and death situations in which deadly force is the only possible response if you want to live. When someone bursts into your home waving a gun screaming that they’re going to kill you, when someone in a mask is trying to drag you into a van with dark-tinted windows, when someone is clearly intent on beating the crap out of you until you’re dead – all of these things are situations in which your use of a lethal response is entirely justified.
But… a lot of situations require more finesse unless you want to risk a) spending the rest of your life in prison and praying you don’t drop the soap or b) vengeance from your adversary’s friends or family or c) criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits forever and ever until you die.
You need to have an understanding of the appropriate escalation of force.
A book I read last year has a place on everyone’s shelf during these times in which a conflict can arise for just about anyone, just about anywhere. That book is Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision Making Under Threat of Violence and it’s by Rory Miller. If you’ve been around here for a while, you may have seen my review of another of Miller’s books, and you may have seen Toby Cowern and Terry Trahan reference him as well. That’s because, in my opinion, nobody knows more about the science of violence than Miller. As well, he spent years working in law enforcement settings, so he knows a lot about what happens after the violence takes place.
Identify what the threat actually is.
If you are in a situation in which you may have to defend yourself, it’s important that you understand what the threat really is.
Are you just being yelled at or mocked?
Are people just trying to intimidate or embarrass you?
Are they trying to have an actual discussion or just shout over you?
Are you outnumbered?
Are they threatening to physically attack you?
Are they capable of physically attacking you?
Are they armed with firearms, items that could be used as bludgeons, or knives?
While all of these things may make you angry, if you are not in physical danger, you have to temper your response accordingly.
Part of the book is a detailed description of pre-assault indicators that can help you identify a potentially violent encounter before it happens. This goes a long way toward reducing the likelihood of you being injured, killed, or imprisoned due to your response.
Here are some key steps to take during a potentially violent encounter.
In Miller’s book – which I strongly recommend – he suggests a pattern that begins with simply leaving the situation, to verbal de-escalation when you are not in imminent danger, with other steps all the way up to and including lethal force. He discusses in detail how to rapidly assess your situation to see where you should start. You can find these steps on the internet but they’re not detailed. You should truly read the book to get a deep understanding of them – and you need that now more than ever.
This is my personal take on what he wrote. Any mistakes or misinterpretations are mine alone.
Presence: The encounter requires your presence and there are two components to this. First, is, don’t be there. Any time you ask Selco and Toby what you should do in a dangerous situation, their immediate response is “don’t be there.” And that is true of many of the things happening right now. Going to a protest, for example, is automatically putting you at high risk of being involved in a violent encounter.
Your second option is to leave the situation. If you find yourself in a scenario in which you could be embroiled in a violent encounter, leave. This is like “don’t be there” but in action form. If you see a crowd gathering up ahead chanting and raising their fists in the air, turn around and go a different way. If you are in a setting in which someone makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and leave. Don’t talk yourself out of listening to your gut. You’re not being silly. (This is especially true for women.)
Use your voice.First, you can try to de-escalate the situation. If you can’t avoid it and you can’t leave, verbal de-escalation is your next best bet. This depends heavily upon your understanding of psychology. You want to calm the situation down and one of the best ways to do that is setting up what Miller refers to as a “face-saving exit.” If you are dealing with one member of a crowd, that person will have a lot of personal investment in not being embarrassed in front of his or her friends. You’ll want to think of a way to defuse things while sparing the person from that humiliation. This, of course, sucks, because we all want to kick the butts of someone who is treating us unreasonably. However, your goal is to get away from this encounter without being hurt or killed. If you are alive and uninjured, you’ve won.
Your other voice option is a sharp command if you seem like the kind of person who can back this up. Take me, for example, a middle-aged mama. A command from me is unlikely to have a huge effect on an angry group. However, a command from me backed up by a gun in my hand would be a lot more convincing. (This is something that has actually happened to me – you can read about it here.)
Touch. In some situations, touch can be used to de-escalate a conflict. Touch can be soothing, it can help to distract someone fixated on potentially hurting you, and it can help to defuse situations that haven’t gone too far. If you are not stronger than your potential opponent, this should be used very cautiously, as touching them puts you within their reach as well. For many women, this is not going to be a viable option.
Physical control. This is another thing that won’t work for everyone. But if it is within your wheelhouse, you might be able to prevent the violence from escalating by physically controlling the attacker. This prevents them from harming you or anyone else around you. At this point, you’re beginning to get into territory that could have legal consequences. This is also another thing that may not be particularly viable for women against a male assailant.
Use less than lethal force. The next step up the ladder is less than lethal force. This might mean pepper spray, a taser, or a physical blow, to name a few options. This can be a defensive preventative that will work in some cases. If you are able to stun your attacker, it can be the thing that allows you to move back down the ladder to step one – not being there. Physically overpowering an assailant and injuring them to the extent they can no longer hurt you is an option but, again, you’ll very likely face legal consequences unless it is well-witnessed or provable that you had no less violent options.
Use lethal force. The final solution in this hierarchy is lethal force. This should not be your first choice unless your life is in imminent danger. You can’t just shoot someone because you decide they “deserve” it or because you feel they’re inflicting an injustice upon you. Well, you can, but you can also expect a trial that will empty out your bank accounts and cause your family to potentially lose their home and any other assets while you finance your defense. Then, if you win, you get to start all over again economically. If you lose, you spend five years to the rest of your life in prison. Lethal force must be legally justified and even then, you can end up suffering immensely for having used it.
Again – I strongly recommend you read Rory Miller’s book on this topic, as it is far more detailed than I can be in a quick article and filled with personal anecdotes that make it a very interesting read. You really do have far more options than just killing someone and most of the time, the other options will be better for your future as well as the future of your family.
How do you plan to respond to the threat of violence?
We’re living in a world where unruly groups of people are spending their evenings out trying to intimidate people who they feel “deserve” it, without actually knowing anything about their targets. Any of us could become a target.
Understand that I sincerely believe in the right to armed self-defense. It is our basic human right to protect ourselves, our families, and our property. But I urge you to use temperance when making rapid decisions that could have long-term consequences. These aren’t problems with three-second solutions, and to look at them that way is both ignorant and short-sighted.
It’s good to think these things through ahead of time and consider what your own options are. You’ll need to weigh your personal abilities and limitations against these steps. Remember that your response to potential violence can affect the rest of your life and make your decisions with this in mind.
Political activists/bullies, encroaching on people’s space to make their point, and, more importantly here, trying to intimidate the people into giving up their freedom to give the rioters their way.
The first thing I want to say about this is it is a difficult situation. Especially the more middle class you are, or the more formal the setting you are in.
The first difficulty is overcoming your upbringing and being able to shift gears out of the dining mindset into the confrontation/defense mindset.
As I wrote about earlier, mindset is your friend here. You are just there to do the job at hand.
Doing the job, however, requires a few things to find the proper response.
You really need to be able to read the crowd, both the other diners and the thugs demanding your obeisance to their worldview. Can you count on help from others in the diner crowd? Maybe, but “hope” is not a plan, and you cannot count on it. The most important read you can do is on the thugs/activists.
You need to assess, rapidly, their dedication to their cause. Look for obvious clues to how violent they might be:
Are there any weapons visible?
Are they patterned in a way that provides you a more clear route to exfiltrate?
You need to be able to do this unobtrusively, quickly, and be able to process the information to make a plan of action.
There are a few basic courses of action you can take.
The first is to sit there and take it. This may sound glib, but it is not. If your threat assessment determined that they are just going to yell and scream, you can just wait it out. Obviously, threat assessment must be ongoing, because it can change at the drop of a hat.
Always be looking for routes of escape, and don’t limit yourself to the obvious ones. If it gets bad enough, people make wonderful objects to break windows or drywall to make an emergency exit with.
Sitting there and taking it was the course of action the lady in the video chose, and in this case, it worked.
The next thing you can do is to get up and make your way inside the establishment and use that changed environment to get to the exit and leave. Unfortunately, you need to stay aware of the crowd you are escaping from. A mob is very susceptible to prey drive.
As my friend Rory Miller says, they can and will escalate to violence for several reasons, including to prove they belong to the group, and you are an outsider.
Using your cell phone to call the police is an option but seems to be a low return option at this point. Due to the civil unrest/riots everywhere, they may not have resources available to help you.
What if none of these options work? Move to “desperate options”
The next options are for when your threat assessment determines that it has the potential for violence, or it is now, actively, becoming violent. Beware, these options are hard and dark.
Aggressive Escape is the first “desperate option” we will cover. Using this option, violence comes first but is not the main point of the exercise. Basically, what you are doing is picking one of the opposing crowd, and attacking them violently to make a hole you can get through.
If you hurt one of the crowd, you need to make your escape as fast as you can, as the thugs will try to get payback on you for the damage and pain you have caused. If possible, use a weapon. If you do not have one on you, a restaurant is chock-full of useful tools. A water glass driven into an eye socket or the bridge of the nose. A dinner plate, edge first to the throat, or salt/pepper shakers to the temples, candles into the eyeballs.
I’m sure you get the picture.
The crowd has turned into a violent mob, what NOW?
Next, we get to the most serious scenario. Your threat assessment has determined violence is imminent or the crowd is becoming a violent mob. This is the time to become very matter of fact and know what job you need to do.
In my classes, I simply call these things ‘maiming’, and it is only for very serious situations. This is where you begin taking people apart. We have all heard the jokes about throat punching… This is what it is for. Steak knives, gouging eyes, ripping noses, fish hooking, vile things made to make your attackers back up so you can keep making your way to escape.
There is no way to make this nice, and I want to reiterate, this is for the worst-case scenario, and it can be nasty. This is where you only do things if your life is truly in danger, and you are doing this to escape and get your people to safety.
I’d like to close this by addressing things and questions that have come up in classes or emails.
What about stun guns?
I think they are worthless. My friends and I would play tag with them when we were younger. The only thing they are good for, in my opinion, is to make a quick hole to get through in a crowd. They are not a good choice.
What about pepper spray?
Pepper spray should be thought of as an eye jab in a can, a quick distraction to either escape or launch a stronger attack with a better weapon. It is a bonus that you can beat people with the can when it is empty. If you are going to use it to make an escape opening, please use 15% or better, and spray it either directly in to the face of one person, and make sure they get all of it, or, spray in a wide ‘S’ pattern too get more people.
Well, maybe. It depends. That would be a giant can of worms to discuss here. Suffice to say that during a mob encounter, there are some things you need to think about and practice. Be prepared for serious legal ramifications in our current climate.
Mob violence is becoming more of a normal feature of modern life in the US.
Unfortunately, the dynamics of crowd violence and mob mentality make dealing with or planning for this type of encounter difficult at best. There are no good options, and you must be able to switch tactics on the fly.
As always, awareness is your best friend and primary warning system.
(External Video Link: 5MB .mp4) As Rittenhouse runs North on Sheridan, word among the street-roving groups spreads that he has shot someone and is to be detained (at least in the most charitable interpretation). Soon after, as Rittenhouse approaches reaches 61st street, at least a dozen individuals are seen pursuing Rittenhouse in multiple videos.
The group in pursuit includes a figure wearing a blue cap, and a backpack with red trim with a yellow, apparently cylindrical object in the left side. As the man runs he appears to be holding his hand inside the rear waistband of his [khaki]? capri pants as if to hold them up or secure an object from bouncing due to his gait. It will later become apparent that this is Grosskreutz, and that he appears to have been carrying a concealed handgun in a rear-waistband CCW rig.
Just prior to 61st street Rittenhouse passes an individual wearing a white face covering and a bright red backpack (hereinafter “Red Backpack”). As Rittenhouse runs by Red Backpack points at him.
An individual wearing a white shirt (hereinafter “White Shirt”) and catches up to Rittenhouse and strikes Rittenhouse in the back of the head, knocking his hat off. Rittenhouse stumbles but recovers and continues running. Immediately after the blow in the background of two videos dialogue can be heard: Individual 1: “What did he do?” Individual 2: “Shot someone.” Individual 3: “Get his ass!”
At this point a figure wearing faded jeans and apparently carrying a skateboard can be seen just behind Rittenhouse gaining on him. The individual throws the skateboard at Rittenhouse and can later be seen retrieving it.
(External Video Link: 21MB .mp4) WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC Just after crossing 61st street, immediately after the skateboard throw, but not apparently due to it, Rittenhouse loses his footing and falls face down on the pavement in the middle of Sheridan Road. He begins to roll over into a sitting position facing south, just in time to face a series of four attackers, all of whom are charging the sitting Rittenhouse.
Just as Rittenhouse is recovering the first attacker, Red Backpack, appears ready to tackle or strike Rittenhouse as Rittenhouse brings his rifle to bear. Red Backpack thinks better of it and, from less than a meter way retreats backwards.
(External Video Link: 15MB .mp4) Full Size Video @ 50% Speed The second attacker wearing light colored pants (hereinafter “Light Pants”) approaches Rittenhouse’s right front flank and looks ready to kick or stomp Rittenhouse but once Rittenhouse brings the rifle to bear he flinches. Just as Light Pants appears to make contact with Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse fires what is apparently the first shot in the second encounter.
The shot is directed almost completely vertically. [A possible second shot can be heard just after]? as White Pants tumbles over Rittenhouse, and it is not clear if White Pants is hit, but he apparently thinks better of the encounter, gets up, and runs off with no immediate signs of injury.
Having retrieved his skateboard, the third attacker, Huber, arrives a split second later having attempted to flank Rittenhouse from the rear. He kneels down on Rittenhouse, and the skateboard held in Huber’s right hand makes at least incidental contact with Rittenhouse’s left shoulder. Tangled somewhat with Rittenhouse, Huber attempts to control Rittenhouse’s rifle with his left hand and pull it away. Rittenhouse maintains control of the rifle and can be seen holding it with both hands as Huber pulls on it from [the back of the magazine]?. Rittenhouse ends up flat on his back. The rifle momentarily comes away from Rittenhouse’s body with Rittenhouse’s arms fully extended while retaining but the muzzle ends up aligned neatly with Huber’s body. Rittenhouse gets off a shot apparently center mass. Huber lets go of the rifle, drops the skateboard, staggers four steps, and collapses.
[Edit Aug 28:
On Huber’s wounds from the complaint: “Dr. Kelly also conducted an autopsy on Anthony Huber. Dr. Kelly indicated that Huber had a gunshot wound to his chest that perforated his heart, aorta, pulmonary artery and right lung.”]
Just as the shot is fired the fourth attacker, Grosskreutz arrives. It seems clear that Grosskreutz is holding a handgun in his right hand as he approaches Rittenhouse. He reacts to the sound of the shot by flinching, stopping short of Rittenhouse, and protecting his head with his hands and forearms.
[Edit Aug 28:
Some Twittersocialtubes user named Jacob Marshall claims “…so the kid shot gaige as he drew his weapon and gaige retreated with his gun in hand. I just talked to Gaige Grosskreutz toohis [sic] only regret was not killing the kid and hestiating to pull the gun before emptying the entire mag into him. Coward.”
I don’t think this is correct. Just to be sure I’ve looked again but from two different angles it seems clear to me that Grosskreutz already has the weapon drawn when he approaches Rittenhouse.
The clearing a malfunction comment is interesting. Looking close at the timeframe after Huber is center-massed, it does appear that Rittenhouse turns his rifle sideways and looks at the weapon for a split second and maybe even cycles the charging handle with his right hand. If so, that is an unbelievably smooth clearing of a malfunction. Looking at the two high-resolution photos I see three in sequence. Huber attack prior to the shot. Grosskreutz arms up 1 right after the Huber shot. Grosskreutz arms up 2 just before his bicep is red-misted. There appears to be a casing on the ground before the Huber attack. Two after. But not three. So if there was a malfunction it was a failure to feed, not something more serious (good thing too). Rittenhouse appears to be looking at his rifle in arms up 2.]
When he recovers from the initial flinch Rittenhouse has rolled into an upright sitting position and brings his rifle to bear on Grosskreutz. At this point Grosskreutz puts his hands up. In two photos the handgun in his right hand is clearly visible.
After a pause of a second or so Grosskreutz charges Rittenhouse again. Rittenhouse fires and “red mists” a significant part of Grosskreutz’s right upper arm. Grosskreutz hops once, grabs his wounded arm and begins to scream “medic” over and over while retreating.
In a later photograph Grosskreutz can be seen still clutching the handgun with a severely damaged arm. The hat he is wearing clearly reads “Paramedic.” Much interwebsocialtube ado has been made about a “Paramedic” carrying a firearm. It seems prudent to note that Rittenhouse, representing himself as an “EMT” was also armed. Two other would be attackers, one with a large blunt instrument, back off, one with his hands up.
Rittenhouse comes to kneeling, turns, and continues north towards the Ultimate station and an apparent line police set up on 60th street. As Rittenhouse approaches police he is apparently asked on the PA of an armoured vehicle if “someone [is] injured straight ahead?” Rittenhouse directs the officers towards the scene, and tries to approach a patrol car. A voice can be heard yelling [at Rittenhouse]?: “Get out of the way.” Rittenhouse ends up backing off to the sidewalk. In a later video Rittenhouse appears and seems to try and approach police again. A voice on a PA can be heard yelling [at Rittenhouse?] “Don’t come this way. Don’t come this way.” Rittenhouse would later turn himself into the Antioch, Illinois authorities, having apparently left Wisconsin for home. According to court records, Rittenhouse appeared at Lake County Circuit Court Wednesday and will appear in court again on Friday for an extradition hearing.
During the two Engagements Rittenhouse was presented with a series of “shoot/no-shoot” situations. While it is difficult to be certain about the number of shots fired by Rittenhouse in the first Engagement, as near as I can tell he fired his weapon only when cornered or on the verge of being in a close physical contest with assailants larger and apparently stronger than himself. If anything he seems to have been too hesitant to fire in the first encounter. Absent a headshot at extreme close/near contact range (a very low probability shot in intense CQB) Rittenhouse likely would have been overcome by prison-hardened and clearly aggressively disposed Short Bald Subject.
In the close in photos depicting the Second Engagement Rittenhouse can even be seen exhibiting proper trigger discipline when confronted by the “hand-up” fake surrendering Grosskreutz. Having fired on Grosskreutz it would have been a simple matter to finish the job with a second center-mass shot, particularly given that Grosskreutz was still carrying his handgun (had I personally been in such a situation and seen the handgun I likely would have fired at least a quick follow-up and perhaps until the threat was all the way down rather than hopping around with a firearm still in hand). Rittenhouse, however, declines to do so (perhaps he did not even see the handgun) and instead recovers to kneeling and then his feet and departs to the north. At least in the second engagement Rittenhouse’s fire discipline is surprisingly controlled given the apparent stress of being pursued and battered by an angry mob.
Rittenhouse prevailed in at least four physical encounters, at least one if not two of which involved contests for control of his weapon by larger, presumably stronger assailants. Rittenhouse’s use of a tactical sling would seem to have been of enormous help in permitting him to retain control of his weapon in the physical contest with Huber. To the extent Rittenhouse made tactical mistakes the most obvious would seem to include: 1. Entering an (Kenosha) environment alone and without apparent support. While Rittenhouse may have been casually associated with some of the groups on the ground it seems to be the case that his association was struck up on his arrival, not a pre-existing one. 2. Allowing himself to become physically isolated and surrounded at the scene of Engagement 1. It is not clear what precipitated the initial conflict with Short Bald Subject, but in this Rittenhouse appears to have been rather unlucky to become entangled in a dispute with one of the more volatile individuals on the scene. This said, it should be entirely foreseeable that volatile individuals would be at the scene of a riot or civil unrest. 3. Failing to remain as situationally aware as possible, particularly to threats behind him, and permitting himself to be repeatedly overtaken from the rear in between Engagements 1 and 2. Prior to going to the ground at the beginning of Engagement 2, Rittenhouse allowed no less than three attacks from the rear which resulted in physical contact. Rittenhouse was lucky that none of these attacks disabled him or rendered him helpless in the face of the pursuing mob. The first battery to the back of Rittenhouse’s head, in particular, had the potential to take Rittenhouse out of the fight for good. If, in fact, Huber and Short Bald Subject were associated, it isn’t hard to imagine Rittenhouse would have come out badly on the wrong side of Engagement 2 if Huber was the vengeful type.
Legal Analysis (Note: I am a lawyer but certainly not yours, and not in Wisconsin): Possession of Firearms in Wisconsin and Illinois:
Wisconsin firearms law provides for open carry of loaded rifles and pistols for those 18 16 and older not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms. Unless Rittenhouse’s age has been incorrectly reported he would be in violation of these statutes. Similar statutes exist in Illinois.
[Edit Aug 28:
Further analysis of Wisconsin’s § 948.60 suggests this interpretation is incorrect. That section provides, in rather plain appearing language: “Any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.” The term “dangerous weapon” is defined: “In this section, “dangerous weapon” means any firearm, loaded or unloaded….” (emphasis mine) However, The section is modified via: “This section applies only to a person under 18 years of age who possesses or is armed with a rifle or a shotgun if the person is in violation of s. 941.28 or is not in compliance with ss. 29.304 and 29.593.” Among other irrelevant provisions § 941.28 restricts possession of Short-barrelled rifles which it defines as: “‘Short-barreled rifle’ means a rifle having one or more barrels having a length of less than 16 inches measured from closed breech or bolt face to muzzle or a rifle having an overall length of less than 26 inches.” § 29.304 pertains to “Restrictions on hunting and use of firearms by persons under 16 years of age.” § 29.593 establishes a “Requirement for certificate of accomplishment to obtain hunting approval.” So to generalise, what the Wisconsin legislature wrote was: “You can’t possess a firearm if you are under 18.” What the Wisconsin legislature apparently meant to SAY was: “Any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with means any firearm, loaded or unloaded is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor except we didn’t mean under 18, we meant under 16 and not complying with hunting restrictions and not properly certified. Oh, and if the ‘firearm’ is a SBR or sawed off shotgun.” Shameful rookie mistake on my part: Underestimating the ability of a legislature to restrict that which has been unrestricted in part and restricted in part and excepted from plain meaning by subsection before being generally modified in the definitions of an entirely separate statute. I cannot bring myself to explore the legislative history of these statutes in detail but this sort of twisted language usually is the result of sneaky efforts by later sessions (when the legislature is controlled by a different party than the drafters) to blunt a statute that rubs them the wrong way. “Shhhhh…. let’s just change the definition in a late night session at the end of the term by attaching the amendment to the roads and sanitation authorisation.” Great catches here by fellow victim of the bar @Esqappellate and new member @gjomas. Also, @45custom read the legislative history so I didn’t have to: “(3)(c) was not added until 2005 which would explain the clumsy ordering of the text.” He goes on to say: “It’s unclear whether the general restrictions on possession and control outlined in 29.304 are relevant for 16 year olds, but 17 year olds are clearly out of the framework.” Which now appears like the correct statutory analysis to me.]
Further, in Wisconsin and Illinois, providing an underaged individual [not entitled to have one] with a firearm is a felony [edit in some circumstances]. It seems safe to assume that Rittenhouse’s enthusiasm for firearms was supported at least in some measure by his legal guardians. If they knowingly lent him use of the AR he carried in Kenosha they may face charges under these statutes.
Transportation of Firearms between Wisconsin and Illinois:
Federal law pre-empts the prosecution of illegal transportation via 18 U.S.C. ?926A which provides: “Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.” Any number of state statutes in Wisconsin or Illinois may govern the illegal importation or exportation of firearms where the “peaceable journey” exemption of 18 U.S.C. 926A does not preempt. Rittenhouse is in jeopardy here if his age is reported correctly as he is not legally able to possess the AR platform he possessed in Kenosha in either Wisconsin or Illinois.
In general, and Wisconsin is no exception, a “self-defence” defence to homicide (i.e. “justifiable homicide” or “excusable homicide”) or the use of deadly or potentially force requires several elements. Those claiming self defence must:
1. Have the reasonable belief that… 2. …they or another person… 3. …are in imminent… 4. …danger of death or great bodily harm, and… 5. …that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent said harm.
Key elements of the defence to hone in on are: Reasonability. It is not reasonable to claim that you feared for your life when your snotty eight year old cousin charged you with a Star Wars Lego Imperial Star Destroyer at Christmas dinner (even if the Turbo Lasers appeared to be charged because of the flickering of the dinner table candlelight in the translucent plastic). Imminent. You cannot pop Jimbo next door in the head with your Barrett M82 because he is planning to poison you tomorrow. Well, technically you can, but your self-defence argument might be somewhat weakened by the non-immediacy of the threat (no matter how real the threat is and how deadly the poison). Wisconsin incorporates these elements in its excusable homicide statute thus: “A person is privileged to threaten or intentionally use force against another for the purpose of preventing or terminating what the person reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference with his or her person by such other person. The actor may intentionally use only such force or threat thereof as the actor reasonably believes is necessary to prevent or terminate the interference. The actor may not intentionally use force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.” (Wisconsin Updated Statutes 2019 939.48(1)) Further, many jurisdictions do not permit defendants to use self-defence as an argument if deadly force was used in a confrontation the defendant him or herself precipitated. Wisconsin is one such jurisdiction, terming the restriction “Provocation” providing: “A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and thereby does provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defence against such attack, except when the attack which ensues is of a type causing the person engaging in the unlawful conduct to reasonably believe that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. In such a case, the person engaging in the unlawful conduct is privileged to act in self-defence, but the person is not privileged to resort to the use of force intended or likely to cause death to the person’s assailant unless the person reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant. The privilege lost by provocation may be regained if the actor in good faith withdraws from the fight and gives adequate notice thereof to his or her assailant. A person who provokes an attack, whether by lawful or unlawful conduct, with intent to use such an attack as an excuse to cause death or great bodily harm to his or her assailant is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defence.” (Wisconsin Updated Statutes 2019 939.48(2))
Use of Deadly Force By Rittenhouse
[Edit Aug 28:
Wisconsin Courts online provides the following charing summary of Rittenhouse:
940.02(1)1st-Degree Reckless Homicide Felony B Modifier:939.63(1)(b)Use of a Dangerous Weapon
941.30(1)1st-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety Felony F Modifier:939.63(1)(b)Use of a Dangerous Weapon
940.01(1)(a)1st-Degree Intentional Homicide Felony A Modifier:939.63(1)(b)Use of a Dangerous Weapon
940.01(1)(a)Attempt 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide Felony A Modifier:939.63(1)(b)Use of a Dangerous Weapon
941.30(1)1st-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety Felony F Modifier:939.63(1)(b)Use of a Dangerous Weapon
The complaint (thanks to @HMCS who somehow found a digital copy when all I could manage was horrible phonecam images) can be found here.]
My own review of the Engagements suggests that it is difficult to argue that Rittenhouse was not of the reasonable belief that deadly force “was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.”
Engagement 1: Reasonable belief… In the initial encounter with Short Bald Subject, Rittenhouse can be seen turning at least once to face the pursuing Short Bald Subject after Short Bald Subject hurled an object at Rittenhouse. In that quick turn it is possible that Rittenhouse brought his rifle barrel to bear. Short Bald Subject seems to hesitate, but continues to come on just as strong thereafter, charging Rittenhouse at full tilt. I would be at pains to articulate an argument that Rittenhouse did not reasonably believe that force was necessary to avoid a physical confrontation. ..that he faced imminent… You don’t get a lot more imminent than an adult male charging you at full tilt, especially as close as Rittenhouse permitted Short Bald Subject to approach (1.0-1.5 meters from the look of it). …danger of death or great bodily harm… It is entirely reasonable, within the context of civil unrest, mob action, and a lack of any real police presence, to expect that a full on physical fight with a determined adversary will result in your great bodily harm. I would expect that Rittenhouse’s own exposure to police cadet programs and training would make this reasonable belief by him easy to establish based on what he may have learned in such programs, but anyone watching the news or even vaguely aware of the propensity for mob violence in cities facing unrest (and Kenosha in particular) would be reasonable in fearing great bodily harm or death if they are jumped in that context. Ironically, Rittenhouse’s own words in the prior video interview, that he was armed because he might have to go “into harm’s way” is a good piece of evidence vis-a-vis his state of mind at the time. …and, that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent said harm. Again, Short Bald Subject was not stopping for anything. Given the video evidence of Short Bald Subject’s disposition at the Ultimate station earlier, I suspect any third party will be able to safely infer that the prison-hardened Short Bald Subject did not intend to give Rittenhouse an over-the-knee spanking.
Effect of Provocation:
As I was unable to locate video or audio of the events immediately preceding Engagement 1, it is entirely possible that Rittenhouse somehow provoked Short Bald Subject within the meaning of 939.48(2): “A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and thereby does provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defence against such attack…” It is not impossible to argue that Rittenhouse’s illegal possession of a firearm, and perhaps some “assault by pointing” behavior not visible on the available video might have “provoked others [Short Bald Subject] to attack him….” This “assault by pointing” trigger concept isn’t a terrible theory given Short Bald Subject’s dialogue at the Ultimate station, which seems to describe the origins of his animus: “Don’t point no motherfucking gun at me [homes.]?” Even allowing this provocation argument, it would seem to be obviated by two caveats: First the language that follows in the statute: “…except when the attack which ensues is of a type causing the person engaging in the unlawful conduct to reasonably believe that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. In such a case, the person engaging in the unlawful conduct is privileged to act in self-defence, but the person is not privileged to resort to the use of force intended or likely to cause death to the person’s assailant unless the person reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant.” Given what we do see on video, Rittenhouse retreating, turning, retreating again with Short Bald Subject giving chase until Rittenhouse is cornered, the provocation argument would seem to be defused. More so by the next clause: “The privilege lost by provocation may be regained if the actor in good faith withdraws from the fight and gives adequate notice thereof to his or her assailant.” Whatever preceded the video we do have of Engagement 1, it seems obvious that Rittenhouse was withdrawing with every means available to him.
Reasonable belief… In the video of the chase immediately before Engagement 2 Rittenhouse can be clearly seen looking behind him, obviously registering the number of pursuers he faced. If he had any doubts about their intentions the blow delivered to the rear of his head by White Shirt (a Misdemeanor Battery in Wisconsin) should have made them clear. When Rittenhouse fell to the ground and turned to face his attackers he had a view of at least a dozen individuals approaching him, including the four primary assailants. ..that he faced imminent… While Red Backpack is deterred by the sight of the barrel of the rifle coming to bear and therefore receives no fire, in each of the cases where Rittenhouse used deadly force (Light Pants, Huber, Grosskreutz) Rittenhouse fires when contact is either imminent or already initiated. …danger of death or great bodily harm… An attempted drop kick to the head (White Pants), a skateboard-wielding assailant fighting for control of Rittenhouse’s weapon (Huber), and a handgun carrying assailant that fakes surrender to try and gain tactical surprise (Grosskreutz). Nearby an individual with a blunt instrument held upward. A group of pursuers who had chased Rittenhouse two or three blocks already shouting out things like “Get his ass!” and who swarmed on him when he fell. …and, that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent said harm. Rittenhouse’s attackers were undeterred by the presence of and then even the discharge of his weapon. Still two of them (Huber and Grosskreutz) attacked.
Legal Effect of Illegal Possession of Firearm on Rittenhouse’s Self-Defense Arguments
A number of webytubeintermedia sources make much of Rittenhouse’s apparent criminal conduct in bringing an illegally possessed weapon into Wisconsin and staying out past curfew. While criminal acts do have an effect on self-defence arguments in Wisconsin I do not believe they apply here. Specifically, Wisconsin statutes provide: “A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and thereby does provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defence against such attack, except when the attack which ensues is of a type causing the person engaging in the unlawful conduct to reasonably believe that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. In such a case, the person engaging in the unlawful conduct is privileged to act in self-defence, but the person is not privileged to resort to the use of force intended or likely to cause death to the person’s assailant unless the person reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant.” The only seeming effect of illegal action on the defence of excusable homicide is to strengthen the defendant’s duty to retreat. Specifically until he or she: “reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant.” In this instance Rittenhouse’s amazing restraint, while tactically dangerous, would seem to easily satisfy the additional exhaustion requirement that might be imposed by illegal activity by Rittenhouse. In fact, among use of force cases I have had any detailed familiarity with, Rittenhouse’s is one of the most clear cut in terms of “exhaustion” of alternatives short of the use of deadly force and restraint I have encountered.
Do not enter a zone of civil unrest alone and/or without support. If you find yourself separated from a group return to it immediately. Rittenhouse was vulnerable to Bald Short Subject because he was alone and without any support at the Car Source garage.
[Edit Aug 28:
From the complaint. “McGinnis stated that as they were walking south another armed male who appeared to be in his 30s joined them and said he was there to protect [Rittenhouse].”
If Rittenhouse was there with someone he was nowhere to be seen in the videos by the time of Engagement 1. It has also been suggested by @Granzka and others that Rittenhouse left his initial location where he was guarding a property with others and interacted with police, and that he was then denied re-entry there by the police. This is consistent with other video of Rittenhouse (with hat still on and therefore before the Engagements) being turned back by someone on a PA despite insisting he was guarding a business “over there.” It would also explain why Rittenhouse was isolated when he came to Car Source.] Check your baffles. Check it again. [Edit Aug 28: i.e. “Check your six.”] Even when you check your baffles, and check it again, expect you are missing something in your baffles. Effective slings are essential elements of weapon retention in CQB and the correct setup is a huge equaliser even against melee encounters with larger adversaries. This is a lesson for me in particular. I have resisted sling systems in the past. Don’t rely on firearm discharges or pointing to deter opponents determined to close distance with you. Not that you needed reminding, but rifle stopping power is far superior to handgun stopping power. All three subjects Rittenhouse scored clear hits on were out of the fight immediately. One (Grosskreutz) melted down even though he had ample means to continue the fight. Grosskreutz is only alive today because of Rittenhouse’s amazing (perhaps even naive) restraint. I don’t know of any tactical instructor that wouldn’t counsel a follow-up shot to center mass on Grosskreutz immediately after the arm-strike. If attacking an individual armed with a firearm do not flinch no matter what. If you commit to grappling with a rifle or pistol holder you have to see your attack through. Four larger, assailants, one armed with a blunt instrument (skateboard) and one with a handgun were unable to subdue a nearly prone Rittenhouse because they shied from the muzzle blast at key moments. Had Grosswreutz followed through with his initial charge after the fatal center mass hit on Huber, Rittenhouse would likely have been subdued.
[Edit Aug 28: Amusing aside: Interview with McGinnis by Detective Cepress: “McGinnis stated that he had handled many ARs and [Rittenhouse] was not handling the weapon very well.” Based on the videos I’ve seen Rittenhouse is one of the best weapons handlers under pressure I’ve ever seen. So much for McGinnis’ credibility.]
Confrontations Immediately Prior to the Engagements:
As one might expect, reports from the night in question are confused, but it appears as if at least two armed groups, a local militia type group composed of or supporting business owners, and a liberty/libertarian defence collective, gathered around a number of businesses along Sheridan Road in Kenosha. One of these businesses was Ultimate Convenience Center at 6007 Sheridan Road (formerly a Shell station). Three individuals who would later feature prominently in the Engagements first appear here:
The tall individual wearing the hoodie, a blue cap, glasses, an olive drab, perhaps camouflage-patterned backpack, faded jeans and a red-accented face mask clutching a skateboard I have tentatively identified as one Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, Wisconsin. In 2012 Mr. Huber pled guilty to Felony “Strangulation and Suffocation” (with a Domestic Abuse modifier) and Felony False Imprisonment (with a Domestic Abuse and Use of a Dangerous Weapon modifier). Four other charges apparently from the same incident or incidents ranging from misdemeanor to felony level were dismissed. Mr. Huber received 3 years probation for his guilty plea. From the records available to me it appears that Mr. Huber violated his probation in 2016 and a sentence of 2 years (with a year credit) in State Prison was order, but it is unclear if this was a technical or material violation and if Huber was actually incarcerated for the violation. The shorter, bald individual in the red short-sleeved shirt wearing [denim]? capri pants and white shoes with ankle-high white socks (this short, bald subject hereinafter the “Short Bald Subject” for brevity) MAY be Joseph D. Rosenbaum, 36. Rosembaum is (was) subject to a life-long sex offender registration order in Wisconsin for his Arizona conviction on two counts of Sexual Conduct with a Minor in 2002. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, he appears to have been incarcerated in Arizona from 2002 until paroled in 2012. He apparently violated his parole by tampering with a monitoring device in 2014 and may have been incarcerated thereafter. During his incarceration he racked up dozens of corrections institute disciplinary violations for offences including Assault with a Weapon, Assault on Staff, Arson, and Possession of Narcotics. It is difficult to be certain, but it appears from the video that the two individuals, Short Bald Subject and Huber, are acquainted, if not acting in concert. Both appear to aggressively challenge the group “protecting” the Ultimate establishment, but Short Bald Subject is much more confrontational. He verbally berates the defenders:
(External Video Link: 6MB .mp4) Short Bald Subject: “Don’t point no motherfucking gun at me [homes.]? [Unintelligible]. [I’ll fuck you]? with anything you got. Shoot me nigger. Shoot me nigger. [Bust on me]? nigger. For real.” …
…and gets in at least one scuffle with the armed men:
During the scuffle he drops a white plastic bag which appears to have beverage bottles or other cylindrical objects inside. Later, he is forced to pick up the bag, a piece of evidence that will become relevant in due course.
Also present in the crowd at Ultimate, wearing a black shirt with a yellow logo, a blue baseball hat with white lettering on the front, some sort of orange scarf or handkerchief, a grey-strapped backpack with red trim with a yellow bottle in a pouch on the left side, and smoking a cigarette, is an individual I have tentatively identified as Gaige P. Grosskreutz, 26, of West Allis, Wisconsin. In 2016 Mr. Allis pled guilty to a charge of Going Armed with a Firearm while intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor. His 4 month sentence [was apparently stayed]? and he was released to 12 months of probation. As part of his pre-trial hearings he was ordered not to possess firearms or deadly weapons, but it is not clear from the record if this restriction was lifted after he completed his probation. There are also charges against Mr. Grosskreutz of Felony Burglary, Misdemeanor Theft, Misdemeanor Criminal Trespass, and Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct, but the disposition of those charges are unknown. Grosswreutz appears to be connected with something called the “People’s Revolution Movement.” Note: Rittenhouse does not appear to be in the crowd in this video. The crowd at Ultimate being unable to achieve their objectives at that location, apparently seek to find other venues to articulate the critical import of their views on the human condition and their opinions on the current state of the social compact. In particular, “Car Source,” the maintenance facility/service garage of a car dealership some 300 meters to the south of Ultimate long known as a typical locale for the post-midnight speaking of public speeches, Oxford-style debate, and constructive airing of grievances, much like the famous Roman Forum of ancient times.
(External Video Link: 7MB .mp4) Questionable subtitles hardcoded in original. As the group is seen in video walking towards Car Source, one of the participants calls out their destination “Car Source.” Another calls out “Burn [it]? inside.” At this point it appears the group is nearly at the Car Source lot (formerly Bert & Rudy’s Auto Service) immediately across from the Kenosha Medical Center. The illuminated signs for the center can be seen on the left side of the street.
(External Video Link: 5MB .mp4) A number of individuals appear to be at the Car Source lot already, and prior video shows individuals smashing windows of cars including a [black or green]? [Nissan Quest]? with a bat. The distinctive “Service” sign and spotlights of the Car Source maintenance garage can be seen in the background.
The First Engagement:
(External Video Link: 20MB .mp4) As the group approaches the Car Source lot, a foot pursuit begins in the direction of the building with the “Auto Service” sign on the lot. There is no clear indication from any of the available video what precipitated the chase, but after dozens of replays of the video segment in question I cannot hear any sounds that are obvious firearms discharges that might have precipitated the events that followed. As the camera gets closer a shirtless man with [denim]? capri pants and a red mask/bandanna can be seen chasing another man.
(External Video Link: 5MB .mp4) In a second angle the pursuer can be seen throwing an object at the quarry. Interwebsocialtube speculation that this object was a “Molotov cocktail” seems inaccurate.
Instead, the object appears to be a translucent white plastic bag and the fluttering action as it travels through the air when backlit from the floodlights of the Car Source building gives the appearance of flames.
In a later video the bag can be seen clearly on the ground.
The pursuer catches up with the quarry.
The quarry turns to face the pursuer with only a few feet between the two parties.
[A shot/shots]? are fired. From multiple audio sources it seems that there were several shots fired in three sequences. My own ear suggests that the sets begin with a single report (careful review of both video angles suggests it is possible the quarry turned to get off a single snapshot at this moment).
An apparent bystander in all black behind both the quarry and his pursuer seems to react to that first shot. Only after the bystander has flown to the right side of the primary video does the quarry, now between two cars, clearly turn towards the now melee-close pursuer. Four reports are heard, all seemingly the same caliber. The shirtless man goes down. A cameraman in black (revealed below) rushes towards the fallen man. After circling around a car and flanking the scene, the quarry returns to the illuminated part of the lot.
As the cameraman zooms in we can see the quarry more clearly. Green top and an orange/yellow bag on a sling. The “medkit” carried by Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse immediately makes a phone call. On the best available audio he can be heard saying either [“I shot someone.”]? or [“I killed someone.”]? It is not clear if he has dialled emergency services, or someone else. A bystander (who is later revealed as Daily Caller reporter Richie McGinniss, who earlier interviewed Rittenhouse) peels off his shirt to tend to the wounds of the felled pursuer. While the quarry is on the phone someone off-camera can be heard yelling: “Get that motherfucker.” [At least one witness reports McGinniss or someone nearby then told the quarry “Get out of here.”]?
As the camera approaches the quarry can be clearly identified as Rittenhouse (note the blue/purple gloves, the orange medkit, the green top, the AR/sling combination) turns and runs North on Sheridan Road still talking on the phone.
The pursuer has [denim]? capri pants, white shoes, white ankle socks, and a short-sleeved red shirt wrapped around his face, but those facial features that can be seen (moustache, nose) when the covering falls to the chin and the similar shirt color strongly suggest the pursuer is Short Bald Subject. The face-wrapping of the shirt raises questions of motive. If, as seems clear, the subject was wearing the shirt a short time and distance before at the Ultimate gas station, why remove it and use it as a face wrap prior to transiting to the Car Source property?
As the camera closes in on the felled pursuer clear evidence of head trauma can be seen including an apparent cerebral flow nosebleed. Twitching in the extremities suggests severe brain injury. A smartphone in the foreground reads 11:49pm. Several people attend to Short Bald Subject, but experienced personnel will easily recognise from the video that his chances are extremely poor. Later a totally limp and unresponsive Short Bald Subject is seen in video being carried to a truck (odd given the nearby presence of the Medical Center with a clear sign indicating it has emergency facilities).