This is the second part in a series using the Kyle Rittenhouse case as a case study (part 1) for self-defence as it plays out in the real world. In this post I will be looking at it specifically from a self-defence perspective. This means you will need to put aside any moral or legal arguments or preconceptions aside and try to look at it purely from self-defence principles, keeping in mind what is considered reasonable use of force. This means asking “should he or should he not, as a seventeen year old, have had a gun,” from a moral or legal perspective, is something you will just need to put a pin in for now. But don’t worry, I will look at these aspects in future posts.
Before getting into a break down, it would be prudent to establish a loose timeline of the events which lead to Kyle killing two individuals and wounding a third. The following is drawn from a variety of sources which are cited at the end of this article, including a transcript of Kyle’s testimony. This will also set up for the future articles which discuss the legal and moral aspects of this case.
A few things should be cleared up first:
- Kyle did not illegally cross state lines with a firearm.
- Kyle was legally allowed to posses the firearm at the time.
- The person who bought it for him was issued a $2,000 fine for the purchase of the firearm.
- While Kyle lives in Antioch, Illinois he had friends, family (including his father), and employment (as a lifeguard) in Kenosha, Wisconsin (where the riots and shooting occurred).
- Due to these connections Kyle travelled there regularly, as the drive was similar to an average work commute.
- The individuals who were shot were White and NOT Black. The three had questionable pasts, including histories of violence and mental health issues, one of whom was in possessing a firearm at the time of the altercation.
- The three assailants were also uttering threats and acting violently towards Kyle.
- Kyle had more justifiable reasons for being in Kenosha at the time than those who were shot.
With those in mind, here is a loose overview of the events:
- He was originally there for work on Aug 24th when the riots began.
- Went to a friend’s, Dominic Black, father’s house where they were staying.
- The morning of Aug 25th he went to Downtown Kenosha with Dominic and his sister. He had his rifle.
- Walked around, ending up cleaning graffiti at Reuther Central High School (volunteering)
- Went to a Car Source lot, talked to owners Anmol “Sam” Khindri and Sahil “Sal” Khindri, who showed Kyle and company videos of the night before, which included cars on fire and property being destroyed. Kyle said, “If there’s anything I can do, please reach out to me”, they exchanged numbers.
- Headed to their car and back to Dominic’s fathers house
- Before picking up their friend Nick they headed to a store, Jalensky’s, to buy rifle slings because “the slings were just so, it’s like a retainer, so if I’m helping somebody with first aid, I can just, like, dangle my rifle behind me and I don’t have to worry about somebody just randomly going and picking it up off the ground, just as, like, an extra measure so it won’t be taken from the ground.”
- Parked car at Nick’s house after Nick asked them to go help at the Car Source. They then walked to the Car Source.
- Met Car Source owners, Sam and Sal and agreed to help protect their business, going with one of them to another of their properties. Kyle had brought is med kit in case he needed to give first aid. Kyle stayed with friends and were given keys and a ladder to access the roof, in order to help keep property safe.
- Any time he left with friend Ryan, it was to check if people were ok and if they needed help, as well as helped to put out various fires.
- During this time Mr. Rosenbaum a rioter, one of those shot, uttered death threats to Kyle and his friends on several occasions, once while Kyle was providing medical care to injured individuals.
- During this time at the Car Source, Kyle was pepper sprayed by someone in the crowd but did not retaliate.
- Kyle gave an Interview to Richie McGinnis a Daily Caller editor (7)
- Kyle and friends continued to patrol the streets to look for those needing medical aid
- Kyle attempted to get back to Car Source #2 but was unable to as the route was blocked by police. He did not violate police orders and therefore could not take the route to get back.
- Dominic called asking him to come to Car Source #3 to put out fires, Kyle grabbed a fire extinguisher from a gas station and headed that way.
- There someone told him “Burn in Hell” as people were setting cars on fire, Joshua Ziminski approached him with a pistol and Kyle dropped the fire extinguisher. Mr. Rosenbaum joined Ziminski, along with another.
- Kyle attempted to flee and was pursued. Kyle says he heard Mr. Ziminski instructing, Mr. Rosenbaum to “get him and kill him” (meaning Kyle)
- Mr. Rosenbaum threw a bag at Kyle while in pursuit, at which point and Kyle brought the gun to bear on him. Mr. Rosenbaum did not stop.
- While running Kyle hears a gun shot behind him, he turns and Mr. Rosenbaum grabs at his gun, he is unable to run due too many people all over and Kyle shoots Mr. Rosenbaum four times, killing him.
- The crowd disperses, Kyle gets free and calls friend Dominic and tells him he shot someone.
- Several people, including Ziminski, screamed “Get his ass, get his ass, get him, get him, get him.” Kyle alleges he heard “Cranium him, get him, kill him,” as he attempted to flee towards a police station.
- Gaige Grosskreutz approached Kyle, a discussion ensued, no one was injured or shot. Kyle continues to flee. Anthony Huber attempts to hit Kyle with skateboard and catches him in the back of the neck. Kyle, now dizzy, continued to flee.
- Kyle was hit in the back of the head with a thrown rock/brick, he fell. Someone kicks Kyle while down. He then tries to flee and Mr. Huber hits him with the skateboard again. Mr. Huber grabs Kyle’s gun and Kyle shoots once, killing him.
- Mr. Grosskreutz has a pistol and as he points it at Kyle, Kyle shoots Mr. Grosskreutz once, wounding him.
- Kyle is able to escape and continues to try to turn himself in to the police. Which he ends up doing in Antioch where he waits for a Kenosha detective to show up.
Okay, so, one thing to always consider is if you were not there you do not know what really happened. However, due to the nature of the continued violence and cellphone footage there is a fair amount of video and eyewitness testimony, among other evidence, to corroborate most of the events of the night of the 25th.
Remember, put any moral or legal questions you might have to the side for a second, as we are looking at this from a pure self-defence perspective, where as you may use reasonable or equal force to stop yourself or others from receiving further harm or death.
Something else to consider is that, while a gun is designed to kill, fists, rocks, bricks, skateboards, and, well, any improvised weapon, can kill just as easily and therefore should be considered lethal force when the intent (or evidence of intent) clearly indicates intent to kill. To any observer, someone screaming “kill him” followed by an actual attack with a weapon, could easily be concluded as being an intent to kill.
Breaking it down further lets use the 4 stages of self-defence (8) as taught at UTKM.
- Pre-emptive Strike
- Re-active Strike.
The first thing is Kyle could have easily chosen not to be there in the middle of a riots. It is a very easy choice and one he has (allegedly) said he would have made if he were to do it again but this is after the fact thinking. I regularly tell my students to avoid violent mob conflict, as you just do not know how it is going to go. Even if you go to a peaceful protest on a topic you believe in, the moment it gets violent you should leave. However, Kyle’s intent was to be there to help and it should be noted that, though it is the job of the police (city and state in this case) to stop violent protests and violent acts, throughout the BLM riots it was clear that the authorities in many cities were going to do little do protect private property rights. Thus someone like Kyle made the decision to be there to do what the state would not. He had medical experience and knowledge and decided to help. It could also be argued that by openly carrying a firearm you make yourself a target, as you are saying to people “I am ready for violence.” This is why many people push concealed carry (where legal) over open carry, because it’s a method to keep your tool on you without causing a disruption or sending the wrong message.
All that aside, based on testimony, video, and evidence it was very clear the Kyle himself was not looking for violence specifically, and on multiple occasions even after being threatened or attacked, he left the area or even ran. This is clearly an attempt to avoid further conflict. Every opportunity he had to leave or run, he attempted to do so. In a area where rioting and looting is ongoing it is almost impossible to completely avoid conflict due to things like mob mentality and the fact that such events attract those looking to be violent regardless of the circumstances and ideals.
While it is true that you win 100% of fights you are not in there is a reason we have further stages to self-defence, because unless you are planning on going fully agoraphobic you will eventually have conflict one way or another. You cannot always avoid everything. Given the fact Kyle was there, he did a reasonable job at attempting not to be violent even after being attacked.
This stage is really meant for situations that are far calmer than than a riot with fires and smashed windows. In these situations tensions are high and the mob can turn violent simply by saying, doing, or wearing the wrong thing.
As laid out in the series of events, Kyle had time to talk to those who he shot, multiple times prior to them attacking him during which time he attempted to let them know he was a “friendly” and meant no harm. Though these attempts had little effect on those who would eventually be shot, he did make an attempt. The fact he made these attempts further indicates he was not there to be violent or cause harm.
Pre-emptive is the point where you are unable to get away and de-escalate, so you must you strike first, before any damage can be done to you. While many people may think that Kyle struck first it is my opinion that he did not. He took several potentially lethal strikes, multiple times prior to ever considering fighting back. Based on all available evidence it seems very clear, at least as I can see, that Kyle did not strike first, he only ever reacted to violence being done on him. You can disagree to this statement but to those who know little about use of force it can be very difficult to judge when and when not to strike. Kyle actually showed significant restraint where others may have, at the very least, fired warning shots. Kyle did not even give himself the opportunity to do this because it seems he was very reluctant to even use his firearm in the first place. Let alone striking anyone pre-emptively.
Despite being hit with skateboards, rocks, and other heavy objects, Kyle did not strike or shoot. It wasn’t until multiple verbal threats of death and after being assaulted with weapons multiple times, by multiple assailants, did it seem he was ready to use force. Additionally it appears that only when he was on the ground after falling and thus unable to run, with individuals either attempting to grab his weapon or pulling weapons of their own did Kyle choose to shoot. The first time he shot 4 rounds, killing the individual, and after that he shot once or twice. The first time was likely out of panic, after which, despite him showing a potential willingness to use lethal force, people still felt he was worth pursing. Thought it is speculation I believe he continued to show restrained in his re-reactive self-defence, which is evident by the fact that the second and third time he shot he only fired enough stop their advance. The 2nd time he had time to aim, which is why the shot was so effective, with the 3rd, as he claims, he didn’t even know where he shot due to panic and the clear fact he was likely in shock at this point.
To me, this is a very clear cut case of self-defence. Period. Full Stop. I will discuss the legal and moral considerations in further posts but given the facts of the case and my understanding of use of force Kyle Clearly acted in self-defence. And, no, I do not accept the argument that he had a gun and in most cases they did not. Intent is what kills, not just the tool with which you choose to do it. He was clearly there to help, even if misguided. He clearly attempted to avoid conflict. He was very restrained and based on evidence did not even attempt to pre-emptively strike or stop the attacks, and only when he was on the ground, unable to run, with attackers who had already indicated violent and lethal intent, were on top of him or with a gun of their own, in within a meter or so, did he shoot. While in many other countries he may have been found guilty which I will discuss given the self-defence laws and attitudes in the U.S. this case should not have even seen trial as, based on the events and as the jury determined, this was very much self-defence.
In the next post I will look at legal considerations to the best of my ability.
I hope this has further helped you understand this controversial case.
Written By Jonathan Fader