KENOSHA, Wisconsin—Kyle Rittenhouse, a rifle-toting teenage Blue Lives Matter and Trump fan, has been charged with murder after allegedly shooting two people dead and injuring another during protests in Kenosha over the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested in Illinois and faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide, according to Lake County, Illinois Clerk of Courts public records.
So far, he is labeled a “fugitive from justice” in the complaint, which states that the teenager “fled the state of Wisconsin with intent to avoid prosecution for that offense.” He’s been assigned a public defender and was scheduled to appear at an extradition hearing on Aug. 28, according to court records.
Videos circulating on social media showed an armed man tripping over on a street, then firing at people who seemed to be making an attempt to disarm him. One person was shot in the head and another in the chest around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday amid another night of violent unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said that the two victims were a 26-year-old Silver Lake resident and a 36-year-old from Kenosha. The injured person was a 26-year-old from West Allis.
Local TV station CBS 58 identified the 26-year-old victim as Anthony Huber, who was seen in videos swinging a skateboard at Rittenhouse.
In another video, a young man fires several shots at protesters—before getting up and walking toward police vehicles with his hands up in an apparent surrender.
Another video shows the gunman running and holding his rifle. He’s heard apparently uttering into his phone, “I just killed somebody,” as he continues to run.
“He had his hands up and they told him to get out of there, even though everyone was yelling that he was the shooter,” Brent Ford, a 24-year-old photographer who witnessed the shooting, told VICE News. “The police didn’t seem to hear or care what the crowd was saying.”
Asked at a Wednesday press briefing how the suspect was able to get away despite appearing to surrender, Kenosha Sheriff David Beth speculated that it was because the scene was chaotic. “There was screaming, hollering, chanting... In situations that are high stress you have such an incredible tunnel vision,” he said.
A video posted to Twitter by a Daily Caller reporter appeared to show an interview with a rifle-carrying Rittenhouse the evening of the shooting in which he was asked what he’s doing at the protest.
“So people are getting injured and our job is to protect this business,” he replies. “And part of my job is to also help people. If there is somebody hurt I’m running into harms way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself obviously. I also have my med kit.”
In a separate video seemingly shot at the boarded-up gas station where Rittenhouse appeared in the Daily Caller video, an individual resembling Rittenhouse is seen chatting with police officers and other vigilante guards. One voice in the video, possibly an officer, asks the civilians to stop pointing their weapons at the crowd. One armored truck at the scene issued reprimands over a microphone, but the driver of another shared bottles of water with the group, and offered words of support.
“We appreciate you guys, we really do,” the driver said.
On Wednesday, Beth didn’t address the apparent support offered to armed vigilantes and defended the possibility that deputies gave the shooter some water, saying that “deputies would toss a water to anybody.”
He said he believed the armed men were “part of this group that wanted me to deputize them” but, he added, “showing up with firearms doesn’t do us any good.”
Beth said he’d received calls to deputize local gun owners but his response was, “Oh hell no, last night was probably the perfect reason why I wouldn’t.”
Rittenhouse posted a TikTok video from President Trump’s January 30 rally in Des Moines just feet away from the podium. BuzzFeed News matched the clip with CSPAN footage that showed Rittenhouse standing in the front row as Trump spoke.
The teenager’s Facebook page became unavailable shortly before the announcement of his arrest, but it included numerous photos with Blue Lives Matter-style pro-police slogans and imagery, as well as of an Armalite rifle similar to the one he appears to have been photographed carrying in Kenosha.
In a December 2018 post, Rittenhouse requested his followers donate for his birthday to a police advocacy organization, Humanizing the Badge.
“I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me,” the post reads. “HTB is a non profit organization seeking to forge stronger relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. We’re doing this through community service projects, mental health support, social media content and strong partnerships with others blazing new paths.”
Photos circulating online indicate Rittenhouse was involved in the Grayslake-Lindenhurst-Hainesville public safety cadet program, which has since disbanded, for people aged 14 to 21.
“I had to watch my friend die on Facebook, I had to watch my city burn down,” Marcus Starks, a 35-year-old Kenosha native and friend of Huber, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
“That boy had no business being here, let alone with open carry... He came from Antioch, Illinois, he had no business being here, then the police let him walk right past them as people were screaming, that he just shot someone, they let him go and threw him a bottle of water.”
The lakeside town of Antioch is just over a half-hour’s drive from Kenosha. Rittenhouse appears to reside there with his mother, Wendy Lewis, whose Facebook page features multiple images of her son—including one of him dressed as a police officer, with the tagline “We Back the Blue.”
In a 2018 bankruptcy declaration, his mother said she did not own any firearms, and the minimum age to purchase a gun in Illinois is 18. But the teen seems to have gotten his hands on one years ago—his mother posted a Facebook photo of him holding what appears to be an Armalite weapon. It’s unclear where Rittenhouse got the gun he allegedly used in the Tuesday shooting.
Rittenhouse’s mother could not be reached for comment.
The shooting marked the most intense clash in Kenosha since Blake was shot in the back multiple times Sunday evening by a police officer. According to a viral video of the incident, a Kenosha police officer shot Blake in the back several times at close range as he tried to get into a van with his three kids. On Wednesday evening, that officer was identified as Rusten Sheskey, a one-time bicycle cop who has been on the force for more than seven years.
“They shot my son seven times. Seven times. Like he didn’t matter. But my son matters. He’s a human being, and he matters,” Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old’s father, said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, just as word of the teenager’s arrest went public, President Trump announced plans to send “federal law enforcement and the National Guard” to Kenosha. The bluster mirrored a slew of previous tirades about unrest in cities across the country since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May.
It also seemed to ignore that a smaller contingent of the National Guard arrived in the city on Monday.
In contrast, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he called the Blake family and “told them justice must and will be done.” In a video posted online, Biden added, “Burning down communities is not protest, it’s needless violence.”
On Wednesday, Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said officials were “not planning to let this violence continue” and would be “very assertive” in enforcing a new 7 p.m. curfew.
At around 5:30 p.m., community members gathered where Huber was shot and killed, near the intersection of Sheridan and 61st Street, laying flowers on the ground and releasing balloons in the air.
They proceeded to march north to Civic Center Park, where police have repeatedly tear-gassed protesters in recent days. At 6:15 pm, 45 minutes before the newly instated curfew of 7 p.m., the scene was a peaceful one. Some activists even took to barbecuing.