The attorney general has threatened to pursue criminal charges against a man acquitted of murder in a shooting in Kenosha, though an appeals court ruled that his acquittal should stand.
In a review of the case, the 7th circuit appellate court said on Monday that a lower court judge was wrong to say that Lt Greg Hapgood should have notified the state agent on the scene and to not allow Hapgood to step outside. The 7th circuit said on the other hand that a Kenosha judge who acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide “did not err when he stated that Kyle Rittenhouse shot the officer in the wrist, and not the throat.” The justices did, however, find that Rittenhouse should have stopped shooting when he was not threatening other police officers on the scene.
Justin Mehlhaff, a deputy attorney general, said on Monday that Rittenhouse would still be the subject of an investigation by his office. “As the appellate court notes, there are other potential criminal charges that we continue to investigate. We’re still evaluating what options are there going forward,” he said.
But Hapgood’s attorney, Kevin Clum, told the Guardian on Monday: “We are appealing the court’s decision that notes the murder charge that Rittenhouse is still charged with should not have been dismissed. So it’s an all-or-nothing situation here. If they find that there was enough proof for that murder charge to be dismissed, then everything he’s done on the case will be vacated.
“If the court of appeals upholds this, then they affirm what the trial court judge did, which is a no-fly zone for any state official or police officer who is conducting a police investigation at any crime scene anywhere in the state, and any witness in any crime scene. And that includes my client – who I think is as scared as anyone.”
The incident began in September 2016 when Rittenhouse, 19, and a friend were stopped by two Kenosha police officers over an unrelated matter. The officer, who was investigating a separate shooting, entered the car and shot Rittenhouse in the arm. He was treated and released from a hospital. After finding the unloaded gun, the officers handcuffed Rittenhouse and placed him in a police car.
Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of recklessly endangering safety. A Kenosha judge denied all of the charges at a trial in May. He was also acquitted of carrying a concealed weapon and drug possession.
Hapgood, the officer who fired the fatal shots, was not charged criminally. Rittenhouse, who was given immunity from prosecution at the trial, has not been charged with any other crimes. He was put on administrative leave by the department, and it remains unclear whether he is still on the force.
The Wisconsin state attorney general, Brad Schimel, had argued against dismissing the charges, saying that Rittenhouse should have been convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and tried as an adult. The release of the seven circuit ruling could open up more opportunities for civil lawsuits against the officers.
Clum said on Monday: “Kyle is fine, he’s working, and he has no idea what the state of Wisconsin is going to do about him.
“The truth is, he has some issues, as the expert witnesses all said. But they were not able to show to this jury how he shot these two police officers. I think that was the reason why the jury acquitted Kyle. But the state said he shot those officers.”