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Anthony Huber

Behind the rumors and caricatures, Huber was a complicated man with dreams that will remain unfulfilled

Kyle Rittenhouse trial

From left, Kariann Swart, Joseph Rosembaum’s fiancée, Susan Hughes, Anthony Huber’s great aunt, and Hannah Gittings, Anthony Huber’s girlfriend, listen as Kyle Rittenhouse is found not guilty on all counts on Nov. 19.

We got a lot of things wrong about Anthony Huber.

Anthony M. Huber

Huber

First, where he lived. From the day police confirmed Huber’s identity after the Aug. 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse shootings, we have referred to him as a Silver Lake resident.

But that, like many things repeated over and over as fact in the Rittenhouse case, turns out to be false.

Huber never lived in Silver Lake. He grew up, and still lived, in Kenosha’s Southport neighborhood — an easy walk from the spot where he died on Sheridan Road.

“Downtown was his skatepark,” Huber’s great-aunt Susan Hughes said.

Like so many things in the Rittenhouse case — and about Huber himself — tiny details have taken on a life of their own, false narratives have been repeated endlessly, and Huber’s address — a mistake of paperwork created in a moment of high stress, according to his girlfriend — became another reason for people to discount his death.

Family members of one of the men killed by Kyle Rittenhouse spoke with FOX6 News about the trial Thursday, Nov. 18, the third day of jury deliberations.

“There’s a whole thread on Reddit about it,” Hannah Gittings, Huber’s girlfriend, said, with people arguing that 26-year-old Huber had no ties to the city.

In the immediate aftermath of Huber’s shooting, as she was still trying to get information about what had happened and worried they would not otherwise tell her what was happening, she told a police officer she and Huber were married. When she handed over her ID with her former Silver Lake address, she said, the police mistakenly took that address as Huber’s.

In the public eye, he’s been a Silver Lake resident ever since.

Gittings and Hughes did not sit through the entire Rittenhouse trial, where graphic videos of the shootings played in an endless loop. But they sat together in the courtroom during closing arguments, sat together on a bench in a courthouse hallway during the days of deliberations, and sat together, gripping each other’s arms, as the not guilty verdict was read.

“Honestly, I am just ready for it to be over and done with at this point,” Gittings said the day before the verdict. “It’s really just a closure thing for me, because no matter what the outcome is, it won’t change anything.”

A painful story caps a career

There is a tradition at the Kenosha News that when a longtime staff member leaves the paper, he or she writes a final column. This is mine. After two decades here, in recent years covering courts and criminal justice, I’m moving on.

I’ve mostly loved my time working here, sharing stories about people in the community. But I wouldn’t have chosen the Rittenhouse trial as my last story if I could, although it got a lot of attention.

It was a painful story, not least because it morphed from a story of human mistakes and bad decisions, of lives lost and lives damaged, to one about politics. And within that political story, Anthony Huber became a character rather than a person, his life reduced to a caricature based on the political views of the viewer.

At the Rittenhouse trial, while prosecutors said they believe Huber was a hero who believed he was attempting to stop an active shooter when he struck Rittenhouse with his skateboard and tried to grab his gun, the story of Huber’s life was largely absent.

What the jury saw of him — over and over — was a video of his death and photographs of him lying on an autopsy table.

“It’s just upsetting to me and the very few people who were really close to him and loved him to see him underrepresented or misrepresented,” Gittings said.

She said it was especially painful because he was a person who she felt had been underrepresented and misrepresented in life as well. “That was such a demon he fought in his life,” she said.

Gittings said she and Huber met at a time when both were trying to recover from earlier mistakes in life. She had moved to Kenosha with her young daughter after a divorce, staying for a time at a women’s shelter in town. Huber had come back to Kenosha after being released from prison.

They met through mutual friends.

“We were both kind of at a crossroads I guess, or a point in our lives where we were consciously making the choice to not keep repeating cycles, to break out of those things. And I always thought that he unlocked all this wisdom for me (about) what I was struggling with, but I came to find out later that he felt the same way about me,” Gittings said. “We just had what each other needed.”

Early struggles

Huber grew up in a small house in the Southport neighborhood with his mother. He had six siblings. He attended neighborhood schools, Lincoln Middle School and then Kenosha eSchool for high school, according to his aunt.

Gittings said Huber’s family struggled with dysfunction and mental illness. When Huber was 18, he got into a fight with an older brother that turned physical. Huber threatened his brother with a kitchen knife and briefly choked him.

He was charged with several felonies and held in jail for 138 days before he was sentenced to probation as part of a plea agreement.

“He ended up going back home,” Gittings said, to the same troubled household. “He had nowhere else to go and gets put right back in the same situation … it was just a whole entire system failure right up to his death.”

Shortly before his probation was set to end, according to state records, Huber’s family called police after he kicked his sister. He was charged with battery, and his probation on the previous case was revoked. He was sentenced to two years in prison for the revocation.

Making changes

Hughes said that while in prison, Huber completed his high school diploma, sending her a photograph showing him in a cap and gown from his graduation there.

And he got a job working in the prison library at the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, something Gittings said was a turning point for him.

“He worked really hard at the library,” she said. She said he liked the work and liked helping people find things they loved to read. While there, Gittings said, Huber convinced prison management to use library funds to add graphic novels to the collection, hoping to draw in men at the prison who were reluctant to read traditional books.

She said he was proud that the management gave him a budget and had him create a list of books they should order.

While he worked that job, Gittings said, the woman who ran the library at the prison encouraged him to pursue an education and career as a librarian. “When I was going through all his notebooks after he died, he had lists and lists of resources” related to his hopes of becoming a professional librarian, she said.

Gittings said “being branded a felon at 18” made many things difficult for Huber. It was hard to find good jobs. Hard to find housing.

“I’m not going to say it was not his fault because he did take responsibility for the things he did. He never tried to say he was a perfect person. He never tried to put the blame on everyone else,” she said. “But it was very hard.”

Gittings said Huber was focused in the months before his death on pursuing a better future. He completed an anger management class. He got his driver’s license. His probation was discharged three months before he was killed.

“He had issues with his anger or temper, things related to his charges, but those were environmental, things related to his coping mechanisms,” Gittings said. “But at his heart, at his core, he was a lover, first and foremost, a protector, always looking out for the little guy, no self-serving interests whatsoever.”

The night he died, Gittings and Huber had gone to the protest Downtown because Huber knew Jacob Blake. Despite detractors branding him as a rioter, in the hours of video prosecutors and defense attorneys showed during the trial there was no evidence Huber was among people throwing rocks or setting fires. There are glimpses of him in the videos, walking by quietly in the background holding his skateboard, while the cameras are focused on action elsewhere.

Gittings said she and Hughes were both not surprised that Huber would have run to try to help if he thought people were in trouble.

“In a split second, he assessed a situation of immediate danger against people, people he didn’t even know, and acted,” Gittings said.

Asked what she would want people to know about Huber, Gittings said she would want them to know that Huber was “unbearably smart,” that he loved and cared for her young daughter, that he was funny and charming, that he was excited about their future and that he was committed to working to overcome past mistakes.

“He talked to me about it all the time, he was very self aware in that respect,” Gittings said. “I would tell him how amazing his spirit was, and I would always tell him not to forget about that.”

Gittings said it has been hard to see Huber reduced to an unwilling player in a political argument, to repeated falsehoods and rumors, to the single title of felon, to a collection of cruel memes.

“He overcame a lot of things, especially at the end of his life,” Gittings said. “I’ve thought of taking photos of his notebook, of showing it to people” so they could see something of the real man.

But for now she flips through the notebooks on her own, looking at Anthony Huber’s lists of plans and hopes and dreams now remaining forever unfulfilled.

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