by Paula Fabbre and Nicole Arres
During three weeks of witness testimony, Kenosha Commonwealth’s Attorney Ken Kratz led the prosecution in the Rittenhouse trial and the defense in a second trial over the death of 46-year-old Tony Robinson, a teen police officer fatally shot while carrying a bat on a downtown Kenosha sidewalk in February 2015.
One Kenosha resident said he was beaten by police and another claimed he was sentenced to treatment in a psychiatric hospital for arguing with a security guard over his parking spot. A police officer shot and killed a 63-year-old man with developmental disabilities after reports of a suicidal patient came into the police station.
Both trials in the case ended with acquittals. On Tuesday, Kratz announced he was dropping charges against two of the defendants for lack of evidence.
But the damage has already been done to the city’s reputation and businesses, say some local experts.
The Rittenhouse case gained national attention, at least partly, from Officer Matthew Christopher’s admission to shooting Robinson. Christopher later said he felt his actions were justified because Robinson was coming toward him. Other police videos, as well as a dashcam video, later contradicted Christopher’s testimony. The discrepancy led to an officer-involved shooting investigation by the City of Kenosha and a possible civil lawsuit.
The second trial ended with the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, a 27-year-old St. Anthony Police Department officer, on second-degree reckless homicide, two counts of second-degree manslaughter and one count of dangerous discharge of a firearm. An unidentified police officer accused of shooting Chad Ryan Bruce, a 62-year-old with developmental disabilities, with a Taser, claims he is innocent and faces no charges.
Since the verdict, a civil suit by Robinson’s mother has been filed against the city of Kenosha and five officers, as well as a separate civil suit by the Robinson family. Several other civil suits are expected to come up in the coming months.
Antonio and Carla Potkowski, owners of the Wheaton Value Rent A Car branch, near the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Pleasant Street, said they were nervous about increased surveillance in the area, especially with the Nov. 12 shooting outside the store, involving Edward Medina, 38, who has been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, robbery, felony bail jumping and armed burglary.
“We are trying to set up a business that has a family atmosphere,” Antonio Potkowski said, noting that his car wash/restaurant has other employees. “You don’t want to have big people walking around saying, ‘Is that pepper spray around there?’”
There have been other incidents in which a customer at the gas station shot another customer after a brief dispute and had his gun taken. Potkowski said he is not concerned that this situation will impact business or increase safety issues in the community.
On Sept. 27, BHGT Photography Owner, Hansel Bloomston, whose studio is in the downtown, said he would welcome surveillance cameras in the area because of parking.
But Bloomston also had a message for those who say it is a slippery slope.
“It seems to me that people in situations that aren’t good need to be there. I’m just saying, they need to step out of their comfort zone,” he said.