Where’s the remorse? | Ott Observations


By now, everyone has had a chance to draw their line about where they stand on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and the jury’s findings of “not guilty.”

If you’re not familiar, he was the 17-year-old who went to a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisc., purportedly to protect property, who ended up killing two people and wounding another. 

The best we can tell about where Kyle now stands is his appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox TV show, expressing no remorse and reasserting his argument that he acted in self defense. 

I keep thinking about all the ways this could’ve been avoided, because it really bothers me to think about teenagers running around with guns in tense situations where social order is on the brink of unraveling.  I raised two teenagers and didn’t trust them to drive our nicest car to the grocery store.

How could this have been avoided?

Rittenhouse lived at home with his mother in Antioch, Ill., a short drive from Kenosha. He received $1,200 in COVID economic help when he was furloughed from his job at a YMCA. Did his mom say, “Kyle, you should put that away to help pay for college?” Or did she ask for the money to help pay bills? 

No, he gave it to an 18-year-old friend to buy a military-style rifle, knowing 17-year-olds can’t legally buy a gun. This friend’s name is Dominick Black, and he is now facing charges for buying a gun for a minor that could result in a long prison sentence.

Rittenhouse drove to Kenosha the day before attending the protest, staying with Black, who lived with his stepfather and kept Rittenhouse’s gun for him there.

By the way, Rittenhouse doesn’t have a driver’s license.

Where was the stepfather when these two teenagers hung out overnight, then left the next night armed?  Rittenhouse’s mother said she didn’t know her son was going to the protest.  The day before, did she say, “Kyle, where are you going and when will you be home?” Or, “you can’t drive my car because you don’t have a license.” Or, “where are you staying in Kenosha?”

Rittenhouse’s father lives in Kenosha, but Kyle stayed at his friend’s house.

It’s not clear where Rittenhouse got the idea he was needed to protect property during a protest. The owner of the car lot didn’t ask him for help. The police didn’t ask him for help.  

We are having multiple BLM protests across the country because highly trained police often struggle in the moment with the decision to use deadly force. Yet a 17-year-old thinks he is up to this task? 

Did police tell him, “Son, this isn’t the place to be with a firearm, and by the way can I see your permit?”

Rittenhouse initially stood with his friend Black and another half dozen armed “citizens” guarding a car lot. Were they going to open fire en masse if people starting vandalizing the cars? How did he get isolated from the others, standing alone in the middle of the street firing his rifle at people who were threatening him?

What bothers me the most is Rittenhouse’s continued insistence that, “I didn’t do anything wrong, I was defending myself.” Well, you killed two people. Teenagers are capable of extraordinary arrogance combined with extreme stupidity about the realities of life. Certainly this is why we don’t allow them to legally buy firearms. 

If I was one of his parents, this is what I would’ve advised him to say in any post-trial public appearance:

“In my delusional belief that I am a reasoning adult, I have been extraordinarily reckless and am responsible for two people being dead. I abused my parents’ trust in making decisions for myself and I failed to comply with laws and regulations intended to protect others from poor decisions I might make. It will haunt me forever that two people are dead because of me, and I do not know what I can ever do so their families will forgive me. I owe a debt to society and as I transition into adulthood, paying this debt will be my primary objective.”

I agree with the jury’s conclusion that he wasn’t guilty of various homicide charges based on intent to go and shoot people. I wonder why the prosecutor did not charge him with involuntary manslaughter, which is defined as “unintentional killing that results from criminal negligence or recklessness.”

In Columbia there have been people killed by reckless driving, and those drivers are now in prison. It certainly seems like Rittenhouse (and everybody that could have advised him) was even more reckless than such drivers. Justice can be elusive in our legal system, but common sense suggests some prison time and a ton of community service might actually help this young man grow up.

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