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Judge delays extradition for teen charged in Kenosha, Wisconsin slayings

KENOSHA, WISCONSIN (REUTERS) – A teenage vigilante charged with killing two people who had been protesting the police shooting of African American Jacob Blake in Kenosha will remain in custody in Illinois after a judge on Friday (Aug 28) agreed to delay his extradition to Wisconsin.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was charged on Thursday in Wisconsin with six criminal counts including first-degree intentional homicide and attempted homicide after clashes with demonstrators on the streets of Kenosha on Tuesday night.

The former YMCA lifeguard did not appear for the livestreamed hearing in Lake County, Illinois, where he was arrested on Wednesday and is being held without bond pending extradition to Kenosha, said Lee Filas, a spokesman for the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.

A public defender assigned to the case asked for a delay so that Rittenhouse could retain an attorney. The judge granted the request and set a new hearing for Sept 25, Filas said.

L. Lin Wood, who said he was part of Rittenhouse’s new legal team, indicated they would argue he acted in self-defence.

The proceedings diverted attention momentarily from the underlying act of violence on Sunday that convulsed Kenosha in the first place – a white police officer gunning down Blake in front of three of his children, leaving him paralysed.

The incident turned Kenosha, a predominantly white city of about 100,000 along Lake Michigan, into the latest flashpoint in a summer of nationwide protests over police brutality and racism.

It also served as one focal point for the thousands of protesters who gathered in Washington on Friday to commemorate the 1963 march where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr made his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Despite his condition, Blake had been shackled to his hospital bed because of an outstanding arrest warrant on three domestic abuse-related charges, including one for trespassing and one for third-degree sexual assault.

The handcuffs were removed on Friday after his lawyer agreed to a court hearing on the matter and the warrant was vacated, his attorney, Pat Cafferty, told Reuters.

The officers who were guarding his room have also left, Cafferty said.

Jacob Blake Sr, who earlier on CNN lamented how his son’s treatment contrasted with how officers treated Rittenhouse on Tuesday night, spoke forcefully on Friday about the need to “hold court” on systemic racism. Rittenhouse is white.

“We are going to have court right now,” Blake Sr said at the Washington march. “Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.”

The drive for racial justice was ignited on May 25 when George Floyd, a black man, died under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

‘I JUST KILLED SOMEBODY’

A criminal complaint released by Kenosha County on Thursday alleges that Rittenhouse fired an assault-style rifle at three protesters who tried to subdue him, killing two of them: 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, and Anthony Huber, 26.

The complaint contains elements likely to be used in Rittenhouse’s defense. Citing multiple cellphone videos and witnesses, the complaint says both Huber and Rosenbaum appeared to try to grab the teenager’s rifle before being shot.

It also referenced a video in which Rittenhouse said “I just killed somebody,” after shooting Rosenbaum in a parking lot.

In Kenosha, three nights of skirmishes between protesters and police gave way on Wednesday and Thursday to smaller, peaceful demonstrations. Officials are nevertheless preparing for more unrest.

More than 1,000 National Guard soldiers are now on the ground in Kenosha and will remain as long as needed, Major-General Paul Knapp told a news conference on Friday.

Protesters have been calling for criminal charges to be filed against the three police officers involved with Blake’s arrest and shooting, especially officer Rusten Sheskey, who authorities say fired all seven shots at Blake’s back.

The Wisconsin Justice Department, which is handling the investigation, said on Friday that Sheskey and another officer, Vincent Arenas, both attempted to stop Blake with tasers before Sheskey discharged his gun.

It was the first time the identity of Arenas, an officer in Kenosha since February 2019, was disclosed. The department identified the third officer on the scene as Brittany Meronek, who joined the force last January.

The exact sequence of events leading to Blake’s shooting remained sketchy.

Wisconsin Attorney-General Josh Kaul said on Wednesday the confrontation stemmed from a domestic complaint lodged by a girlfriend, and that investigators had recovered a knife from the floor of the car that Blake was leaning into when he was shot.

Blake’s lead attorney, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, said his client had no knife in his possession and did nothing to provoke or threaten police before being shot.

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