Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois man acquitted last year of fatally shooting two men and wounding a third during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2020, is requesting the return of the gun.
Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, when he shot them with an assault rifle as he roamed the streets of Kenosha with other armed men acting as self-described militia during protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white officer.
Rittenhouse’s highly contentious trial – and acquittal – was widely seen as a test case for US justice.
The trial revealed contrasting attitudes of law enforcement when confronted with white men or teens who claimed to be acting as vigilante-style informal security personnel, armed with assault rifles, and Black members of the public or those protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Now 19, Rittenhouse has been fêted on the political right.
On Wednesday his attorney, Mark Richards, filed court documents in Kenosha county seeking the return of the AR-15-style rifle Rittenhouse used on the evening of 25 August 2020, along with other items.
“Mr Rittenhouse further wishes to ensure that the firearm in question is properly destroyed,” Richards wrote.
Although the rifle Rittenhouse used belonged to a friend who helped the then 17 year-old purchase it as he was too young to buy and possess his own, Rittenhouse’s attorneys now maintain he is the gun’s lawful owner “per the verbal contract enacted” with the friend, Dominick Black.
“As established through the trial testimony of Dominick Black and Mr Rittenhouse, the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle … was purchased by Dominick Black but was to become the legal property of Kyle Rittenhouse upon his 18th birthday,” Richards’ filing said.
In an interview with the Journal Times, David Hancock, the Rittenhouse family spokesman said: “Kyle has requested that the firearm be destroyed … there’s nothing to celebrate about that weapon. There isn’t. Kyle has no interest and no want to recover that weapon, and absolutely no interest to sell it or anything.”
Rittenhouse is also attempting to retrieve ammunition, a sling and magazines, his iPhone, a cloth mask, and a $1 bill. He is also looking to retrieve the clothing he wore the night of the shooting, including boots, a baseball cap, jeans, socks, a belt and a T-shirt.
The gun may not be handed back immediately. Under Wisconsin law, firearms seized by police as part of an investigation are kept as evidence until the investigation is over. Although Rittenhouse’s trial is over, Dominick Black is still on trial.
“Though the case involving Mr Rittenhouse has been concluded, the firearm is still being held in evidence as Mr Black’s property until the time his case is resolved,” said Sgt Leo Viola of the Kenosha police department.