As Rittenhouse Awaits Verdict, Man Shot by Kenosha Officer Heals Slowly

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KENOSHA, Wis. — As a jury of 12 Kenosha County residents weighed the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two men and wounded a third amid unrest last summer, Jacob Blake, the man who was partially paralyzed in the police shooting that ignited the protests, was miles away in Chicago, where he undergoes physical therapy in an effort to walk again.

Mr. Blake, 30, has set a goal of walking on his own by next summer, said his uncle, Justin Blake, who has remained on the steps outside the courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., during much of Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial.

“He has bad days, there’s no doubt, but he’s so grateful to be alive,” Justin Blake said of Jacob Blake, who, his uncle said, has not been following every turn in the Rittenhouse trial and instead has kept his attention on healing and a new side job, printing T-shirts. “He needs to be focusing on himself, focusing on his children and his new normal,” Justin Blake said.

Credit…Adria-Joi Watkins, via Associated Press

In August 2020, Jacob Blake was training to become a mechanic and living in Kenosha when a woman with whom he has several children called 911 and said he was about to drive away in her rental car. In minutes, Kenosha police officers arrived at the woman’s home.

Mr. Blake, who is Black, appeared to be trying to enter the car and had a knife in one hand when Rusten Sheskey, a white officer, shot him seven times. Several of Mr. Blake’s children were in the back seat of the car.

The police shooting, which was captured on a bystander video, came during a summer of anger and demonstrations across the country over police violence following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Protests erupted in Kenosha, too, but attention quickly shifted from the shooting of Mr. Blake to the fires and looting that were unfolding in Kenosha.

Only days after Mr. Blake was shot, Mr. Rittenhouse, who lived about 30 minutes away in Antioch, Ill., brought a semiautomatic rifle that was stored in Wisconsin to downtown Kenosha, where he said he wanted to protect businesses and provide medical care.

Mr. Rittenhouse, 18, who is facing five felony counts, has testified that he was defending himself from the three men he shot during a chaotic evening along the streets of Kenosha.

He is charged with reckless homicide in a first shooting, in which he killed Joseph Rosenbaum, who Mr. Rittenhouse said was chasing him and lunged at his gun.

After Mr. Rittenhouse fell to the ground while jogging away from a group of people pursuing him after the first shooting, he fatally shot Anthony Huber, who had swung a skateboard at him. He was charged with intentional homicide — a count often called murder in other states — in the death of Mr. Huber, who was a friend of Jacob Blake’s and had been there for protests.

Seconds later, Mr. Rittenhouse shot another man in the crowd, Gaige Grosskreutz, after Mr. Grosskreutz moved toward him while holding a handgun, leading to a count of attempted intentional homicide. He also faces two charges of endangering safety by pointing his gun at two people.

Jurors began deliberating over the charges shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday and went home in the evening without reaching a verdict. They will return on Wednesday morning for more deliberations.

The group of 18 possible jurors who watched the trial was winnowed down to 12 through a process that is unusual but a tradition in Judge Bruce Schroeder’s court. Eighteen slips of paper with the jurors’ numbers were placed into a brown container that was spun around, and then Mr. Rittenhouse himself drew six of the papers out of the contraption; those jurors were dismissed, though they were asked to remain at the courthouse as alternates if one of the 12 jurors suffers an illness or is dismissed during deliberations.

As they were deliberating, the jurors asked for copies of the first part of the jury instructions that have to do with self-defense. Later, they asked for the rest of the instructions. Otherwise, they had no questions for the judge on Tuesday.

Outside the courthouse, a small group of Mr. Rittenhouse’s supporters and detractors gathered and occasionally squabbled with each other in front of a throng of reporters.

Justin Blake, Mr. Blake’s uncle, has spent most days on the courthouse steps, where he has waved a Pan-African flag and said he believed that Mr. Rittenhouse should be convicted. Bishop Tavis Grant, a pastor and activist in East Chicago, Ind., said he hoped the attention on Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial would bring more scrutiny on another decision he found unacceptable: a choice by the Kenosha County district attorney, announced in January, not to charge Officer Sheskey in the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Mr. Blake has rarely spoken publicly since the shooting, but he told CNN in August that he “didn’t agree” with destructive protests over police conduct but that he understood why they had taken place. He also said he believed that Mr. Rittenhouse was treated differently by the police because he is white.

“For the reasons they said they shot me, they had every reason to shoot him, but they didn’t,” CNN quoted Mr. Blake as saying about Mr. Rittenhouse. “Honestly, if his skin color was different — and I’m not prejudiced or a racist — he probably would have been labeled a terrorist.”

On Tuesday, Justin Blake said it was important for his nephew to stay busy.

“He’s just trying to do something that engages him and gets his mind moving and keeps him off thinking of bad things,” Justin Blake said. “He’s a Blake. We shake and we go. It’s in our DNA — we don’t stop.”

Julie Bosman, Dan Hinkel and Sergio Olmos contributed reporting from Kenosha.

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