Gaige Grosskreutz, who was shot in the arm by Kyle Rittenhouse during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year, has filed a lawsuit accusing police of enabling the actions of Rittenhouse and white nationalist militants who roamed the streets on a night of deadly violence in the city.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, is charged with killing two people and injuring Grosskreutz during the demonstrations over the earlier police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his trial is scheduled to begin next month. His lawyers have claimed he fired his gun in self-defense.
In the federal lawsuit filed Thursday, Grosskreutz alleged that Kenosha's "law enforcement officers and white nationalist militia persons discussed and coordinated strategy" that led to the shootings on Aug. 25, 2020.
"It was not a mistake that Kyle Rittenhouse would kill two people and maim a third on that evening," the lawsuit stated. "It was a natural consequence of the actions of the Kenosha Police Department and Kenosha Sherriff’s [sic] office in deputizing a roving militia to 'protect property' and 'assist in maintaining order.'"
The lawsuit names the city and county of Kenosha, the sheriff, and the former and current police chiefs as defendants, but it does not name Rittenhouse as a defendant.
A lawyer for Sheriff David Beth and Kenosha County said the allegations against them were false, and he added that he intended to file a motion to dismiss the case.
"The lawsuit also fails to acknowledge that Mr. Grosskreutz was himself armed with a firearm when he was shot and Mr. Grosskreutz failed to file this lawsuit against the person who actually shot him," the attorney, Samuel C. Hall, said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News.
The city of Kenosha declined to provide comment and the Kenosha Police Department did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
Grosskreutz, who sustained serious injuries and "lost 90% of his right bicep" in the shooting, is seeking unspecified damages for several alleged constitutional violations, including failure to intervene, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and free speech violations.
According to the lawsuit, Kenosha's authorities were aware of social media posts suggesting that armed individuals were about to descend on the city with the intent to hurt and kill demonstrators.
In a Facebook post, a self-proclaimed militia group called Kenosha Guard called for "patriots willing to take up arms and defend our City tonight against the evil thugs," prompting hundreds of responses, including threats of violence.
"Counter protest? Nah. I fully plan to kill looters and rioters tonight. I have
my suppressor on my AR, these fools won’t even know what
hit them," one reply to the post said.
The lawsuit stated that instead of stopping Rittenhouse and the militants from patrolling the streets, Kenosha's law enforcement officers offered them water and thanked them for their presence, with one officer saying, "We appreciate you guys, we really do."
Many officers who saw Rittenhouse brandishing his gun through the night did not question or detain him, even after several people yelled out that he had shot people, according to the lawsuit.
"Instead, Defendants deputized Rittenhouse and other armed individuals, conspired with them, and ratified their actions by allowing them to patrol the streets armed illegally with deadly weapons and shoot and kill innocent citizens," the lawsuit said.
Grosskreutz also alleged that officers' actions during the protests constituted racial discrimination and that they would have acted differently if Rittenhouse were Black.
"If a Black person had approached police with an assault rifle, offering to patrol the
streets with the police, he most likely would have been shot dead," the lawsuit said.
"If a Black child had shot three citizens with an assault rifle and was seen walking away from the scene of the shooting with the assault rifle in hand, while other citizens yelled he was an active shooter, he would have been shot dead."
Earlier this year, the family of Anthony Huber, who was fatally shot by Rittenhouse, sued the Kenosha sheriff and police departments, alleging that their officers' conduct "directly caused" Huber's death.