The 18-year-old Illinois teenager who shot and killed two people and injured a third at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last August pleaded not guilty Tuesday to all charges, including intentional homicide.
Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with first-degree reckless homicide and five other criminal counts related to the shootings, appeared via video call in court to enter his plea.
On August 25, Rittenhouse traveled across state lines from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha, where he later opened fire on protesters, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber. The gunshots also wounded Gaige Groskreutz.
The victims were part of a massive crowd of protesters who were seeking justice for Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left paralyzed after a white police officer shot him in the back seven times two days earlier.
Prosecutors say Rittenhouse made the trip in response to a social-media call to protect businesses during the demonstration, which was characterized by violence resulting in losses authorities estimated at about $50 million.
Rittenhouse, who is white and was 17 at the time of the incident, said through his lawyers that he shot at his victims in self-defense.
A pretrial conference for Rittenhouse was set for March 10, with a March 29 trial date, though his attorney Mark Richards indicated he would seek to delay that to allow more time to prepare.
In a related development, authorities announced that no charges will be brought against the white officer, Rusten Sheskey, who shot Blake. City authorities are moving to protect businesses in fear of a repeat of the August demonstrations.
Some 500 National Guard troops are set to be on hand to help Kenosha authorities, according to Gov. Tony Evers.
On Monday night, Blake’s father, who organized a march, questioned the need for the National Guard.
“What is the National Guard for?” Jacob Blake Sr. queried. “They going to deliver mail? Deliver ice cream? What do you think they’re here for?”
The Blake family has advised its sympathizers against a violent response to the city’s decision. During the march, Blake Sr. urged people to “make noise” and be “heard around the world.”