(KENOSHA, Wisc.) — Local authorities are gearing up as the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse draws to a close and the jury will begin deliberations early next week.
Closing arguments in the high-profile trial are scheduled for Monday morning in Wisconsin’s Kenosha County Circuit Court, followed by deliberations. In advance of the verdict, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has authorized about 500 National Guard troops to be on standby to support public safety efforts if needed, state officials said Friday.
“We continue to be in close contact with our partners at the local level to ensure the state provides support and resources to help keep the Kenosha community and greater area safe,” Evers said in a statement. “I urge folks who are otherwise not from the area to please respect the community by reconsidering any plans to travel there and encourage those who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to do so safely and peacefully.”
The National Guard soldiers will “stand ready” to protect the Kenosha community “should a request from our local partners come in,” Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said in a statement.
Hundreds of officers from volunteering law enforcement agencies will also be on hand in Kenosha, according to the Wisconsin National Guard.
The Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department plan to “monitor” the trial, the departments said in a joint statement this week.
“We recognize that there are varying opinions and feelings that revolve around the trial that may cause concerns,” Interim Chief, Eric Larsen and Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said in a statement. “Both of our departments have dedicated staff working in conjunction with local, State and Federal law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of our communities.”
Evers previously mobilized about 500 National Guard troops to Kenosha in January, in advance of the Kenosha County district attorney’s decision to charge Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse, 18, has been charged with killing two people and wounding a third last year during riots that erupted in Kenosha over a police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, paralyzing him. Riots, vandalism and looting broke out, prompting an online call for armed “patriots” to come to the city to protect lives and property.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of his alleged crimes, claimed he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, in self-defense because he was being attacked by a mob and feared for his life.
The teen has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. He has also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of a firearm by an individual under the age of 18.
Judge Bruce Schroeder indicated in court Friday that he will likely give the jury the opportunity to consider whether Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum into attacking him. The prosecution contends Rittenhouse is seen doing just that by raising his gun in a drone video that was discovered during the course of the trial. Defense attorneys suggested Rosenbaum lunged for Rittenhouse’s gun.
Schroeder is also weighing whether to allow the jury to consider several lesser charges.
“If I allow those, then the jury, if they are unable to agree that you’re guilty of the charged offense, will have the opportunity to consider whether you’re guilty of the less serious offense,” Schroeder told Rittenhouse Friday.
Jury instructions are expected Monday, and deliberations could begin as early as that afternoon following closing arguments.
ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson and Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.
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