Down in a chunk of bumblefuck Georgia, three guys, a father-son pair named Travis and Gregory McMichael and a neighbor named Roddie Bryan, found Ahmaud Arbery running in their neighborhood. The McMichaels, both armed, got in one truck while Bryan got in another and chased down Arbery. They cornered Arbery. In the confrontation, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery. Bryan filmed most of the chase and fight on his phone.
The three men claimed to police on scene that they were attempting to make a citizen's arrest of Arbery, who they thought had burglarized homes and cars in the area. When Arbery refused to stop, the three claimed Arbery tried to take the shotgun from Travis, who killed Arbery in self defense.
If that sounds fucked up now, wait, it gets worse.
The older McMichael, Gregory, was a retired cop in the area.
The Brunswick judicial circuit DA, Jackie Johnson, ordered the local PD not to make arrests at the time. A few days later, she recused herself from the case.
The case was transferred to a neighboring district, where Arbery's autopsy had taken place. But the DA there, George Barnhill, had already written a memorandum claiming there was no cause to arrest the three. Neither DA mentioned this, and it took over a month for the case to be transferred to yet another district.
How much of this is thin blue corruption cover and how much is typical paper-pushing stupid, nobody knows.
At the beginning of May, a lawyer consulted but not retained by the three released Bryan's video to a radio station. The video went viral, and Gov. Kemp stepped in, offering the GBI to take over the investigation. The GBI found cause to charge all three with murder within 36hrs.
This is where most of us, including us in the self-defense community, noticed the case.
While not set in stone (and varying between jurisdictions), self defense is usually considered legit if the person one is defending from and their actions pass the Ability, opportunity, Jeopardy claim.
Ability: are they physically able to cause death and/or grievous bodily harm(GBH), whether by themselves or with a weapon?
Opportunity: Are they close enough for their weapons to have you in range?
Jeopardy: Would a reasonable person assume they are trying to kill/harm you? I.e. are they screaming "I'm gonna kill you!" or are they screwing around on their phone?
Added into that is a somewhat more vague concept: are you minding your own business or are you willingly engaging in conflict?
This is where it gets fuzzy and where a lot of people lose their shit in a haze of "I have a right to do what I want!"
But on the whole, your behavior has to deescalate or at least stay neutral in order to be actually defending yourself.
For a good example of willingly engaging in a conflict then "defending" oneself, see Samuel L Jackson's story about the confederate's son in the Hateful 8.
The three claimed they were minding their own business while making a citizen's arrest.
The claim was based on a civil war era citizen's arrest law (which has since been rescinded). That law claimed that a crime must be committed within the citizen's "immediate knowledge" or there must be "reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion" for a felony crime.
It smelled funny to most of us to begin with and fell apart as the trial went on and the three admitted that they'd only seen videos of Arbery wandering through a construction site and not taking anything, then took the chance to catch him when they saw him jogging.
Dude, if three assholes came chasing after me in trucks with shotguns, I'd run and fight back too.
Anyways, today all three were found guilty. Former DA Johnson lost reelection and has been indicted for obstruction of justice and violation of oath of office. Dunno if anyone's charged Barnhill with anything.
So, if those guys' claims are bullshit, what makes Rittenhouse and his claim legit?
Ability: all three of those he shot were capable of killing him.
Opportunity: all three got close enough to kill and/or harm him.
Jeopardy: All three acted in ways consistent with trying to kill him. Two tried to take Rittenhouse's weapon. One openly threatened to kill him. One drew a pistol on him.
And did Rittenhouse escalate?
The Jury didn't believe so. Despite being armed, he was retreating in every single case, only raising his muzzle when attacked and only firing when it was reasonable to believe he was facing deadly force himself.
Some have argued that he was escalating merely by being there, or by being visibly armed. These arguments are uncomfortably close to "just look at what she was wearing" arguments.
They're also hypocritical, given that Rosenbaum was openly threatening to kill him and several members of his group. Also in that Grossenkrutz had presumably carried concealed at several protests, despite having an expired carry permit and an arrest for carrying while intoxicated on his record.
In either case, neither held any sway with the jury.
That said, as I've pointed out more than once, there's a difference between a legal act and a good idea.
The three in Georgia decided that thefts in their neighborhood not only warranted a citizen's arrest, but an armed vehicular chase. At no point did the idea of getting a positive ID or even calling the police occur to them. Instead, they chased an innocent man down and shot him dead when they fought back.
The jury echoed pretty much the entire self defense community in calling their SD claim bullshit.
Rittenhouse, on the other hand, made the choice to go off on his own to douse a fire and found himself ambushed. Once there, he defended himself as best he could and surrendered to the first cop that would actually book him.
As a side note, one thing I do think would have changed his life for the better was the leader of his group insisting that nobody be alone that night for any reason. Particularly since one of Rosenbaum's more direct threats was to kill anyone he caught alone that night. A threat he tried and failed to make good against Rittenhouse.
Anyways, hope that made sense. I've been a little ragged the last week or so. But the holiday kicked off with some justice, and I'm grateful for it.
Take care of yourselves out there.