WISCONSIN, Oct 16 ― A man shot by US teenager Kyle Rittenhouse during racial justice protests in Wisconsin last year has filed a lawsuit against local law enforcement he accuses of deputizing a “roving militia” of white nationalists.
Gaige Grosskreutz filed the lawsuit in federal court on Thursday. He was one of three people shot by Rittenhouse, two of whom died. Rittenhouse faces trial on homicide and attempted homicide charges next month in the August 2020 shooting in Kenosha.
“It was not a mistake that Kyle Rittenhouse would kill two people and maim a third on that evening,” Grosskreutz's lawsuit said. “It was a natural consequence of the actions of the Kenosha Police Department and Kenosha Sheriff's office in deputizing a roving militia to 'protect property' and 'assist in maintaining order.'“
Sam Hall, an attorney representing Kenosha County and Sheriff David Beth, said in an emailed statement that the allegations in the lawsuit were false and that he would seek to have the complaint dismissed.
Grosskreutz's lawsuit names Kenosha county and city, along with the police and sheriff's department and individual officers. The Kenosha city and police department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The shooting occurred at protests that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who had resisted arrest on a domestic violence call, and who investigators said was armed with a knife. Blake was left paralyzed after being hit in the back with seven bullets.
The US Justice Department said last week it will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against a white Kenosha police officer, Rusten Sheskey, for his involvement in Blake's shooting. Wisconsin prosecutors had earlier cleared Sheskey after finding that he had acted in self-defence.
Rittenhouse is awaiting trial in November on charges of first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide in the killings of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and attempted first degree intentional homicide and use of a dangerous weapon in Grosskreutz's shooting. Rittenhouse also is charged with weapons violations and other crimes during the protest.
In August, Huber's family filed a lawsuit similar to Grosskreutz's, which claims local law enforcement officers “and white nationalist militia persons discussed and coordinated strategy.”
Grosskreutz's lawsuit said that members of a militia called the Kenosha Guard and others arrived at the protest armed at the invitation via Facebook of Kevin Mathewson, a former Kenosha City Council member, and were openly brandishing weapons and threatening those taking part in mostly peaceful protests.
The lawsuit said unnamed militia members responded to Mathewson's Facebook post, saying they intended to kill protesters they said were rioting and looting.
It also cites an email Mathewson sent to the police chief, which according to the lawsuit said, “as you know, I am the commander of the Kenosha Guard, a local militia” and that “we are mobilizing tonight and have about 3,000 RSVP's.”
Mathewson, who works as a private investigator, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit said the social media posts made clear that the militia members were not at the protest to protect local businesses or contracted for security by any local stores.
The complaint also said that Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time and not stopped by police before or immediately after the shooting, received special treatment.
“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 read. ― Reuters