A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the father of one of the two men killed by Kyle Rittenhouse during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020 has been allowed to proceed against Rittenhouse, Kenosha police officers and others, a Wisconsin federal judge ruled on Wednesday .
The lawsuit, initially filed by Anthony Huber’s father John Huber in 2021, draws a link between Rittenhouse’s actions and those of law enforcement present at the scene of the protests. Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at the time, fatally shot two men and injured another.
The lawsuit accuses Kenosha police officers of allowing a dangerous situation that violated his son’s constitutional rights and resulted in his death. It also alleges that Rittenhouse, who claimed he acted in self-defense and was found not guilty of murder in 2021, conspired with officers to harm protestors.
It’s the first time Kenosha law enforcement will face legal scrutiny for the shootings.
Kyle Rittenhouse listens as Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger attempts to introduce evidence that was previously blocked during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 10, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the father of one of the two men killed by Rittenhouse has been allowed to proceed.
Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images
The actions—and inaction—of police during the night of the protests have already been criticized by many, including Leah Watson of the American Civil Liberties Union, a senior staff attorney who in November 2021 wrote that the actions of Kenosha police “played a critical part” in the deaths of the two men at the hands of Rittenhouse.
“On the night of August 25, law enforcement not only failed to protect protestors calling for police accountability and more humane treatment of Black people, but actively put them in harm’s way,” Watson wrote. “Officers enabled and encouraged predominantly white, right-wing armed civilians and militia groups that night, creating a situation in which tensions escalated and people were killed.”
“The Kenosha officials that created a powder keg situation by their actions tried to claim that they cannot be held accountable for their unconstitutional conduct; that argument was soundly rejected today,” Anand Swaminathan, an attorney for John Huber and Karen Bloom, said in a statements. Bloom is Anthony Huber’s mother.
Huber is seeking damages for £10 million from city officials, police officers and Rittenhouse, who has since turned into something of a celebrity and a recurring special guest on right-wing media. According to CNN, the lawsuit could prevent Rittenhouse from profiting from the shootings, including from any book deals to speaking engagements.
Efforts to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit by Rittenhouse and government defendants have been dismissed by US District Judge Lynn Adelman, who ruled for the lawsuit to proceed. He said that the death of 26-year-old Anthony Huber, who was at the protests with his girlfriend, “could plausibly be regarded as having been proximately caused by the actions of the governmental defendants.”
Rittenhouse’s attorney Shane Martin said in a phone interview with the Associated Press: “While we respect the judge’s decision, we do not believe there is any evidence of a conspiracy and we are confident, just as a Kenosha jury found Kyle’s actions that evening were not wrongful and were undertaken in self defense.”
Anthony Huber had both traveled to the scene of unrest in Kenosha, where people had gathered to protest the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer. Rittenhouse testified that he went to the protests to protect private property and help as a medic.
During the protests, Rittenhouse—who was carrying an AR-15-style rifle—first shot 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, who had approached him but was unarmed. After the first shooting, Rittenhouse ran towards the police line, but was chased by Huber, who took him to be an active shooter. Huber hit the teen with his skateboard, but was then shot dead by Rittenhouse.
Another man chasing Rittenhouse, Gaige Grosskreutz, was shot in the arm by the teen but survived his injuries.
Though Rittenhouse was found not guilty of five felony charges—the most serious of which was first-degree intentional homicide—in 2021 on the basis that he acted in self-defense, the civil case might reach a different verdict. The burden of proof is different in a civil case, where plaintiffs must prove their allegation by a preponderance of evidence instead of proving them beyond a reasonable doubt, as in criminal cases.