A 17-year-old has been arrested and charged over the shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin that left two protesters dead and another injured in a possible vigilante attack during the third night of unrest in the city.
Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois and charged with first degree intentional homicide. Court records say the teenager ‘fled the state of Wisconsin with the intent to avoid prosecution for that offense’. Antioch is about 15 miles from Kenosha.
Two people were shot dead just before midnight on Tuesday – one in the head and one in the chest. One of the slain men has since been identified as Anthony Huber. A third man, a 36-year-old from West Allis, Wisconsin, was shot in the arm but his wounds were not believed to life-threatening.
The teenager’s arrest came hours after video footage emerged showing Rittenhouse walking up to police with his hands in the air and his semi-automatic rifle slung across his body just moments after the shooting. He was apparently allowed to walk by despite members of the crowd yelling for him to be arrested because he had shot people, according to witness accounts and video footage.
Footage from earlier in the night appeared to show the teen guarding a local car shop with a group of armed militia members. Another video showed police thanking an armed group, of which the teenager appeared to be part of, and offering them water.
Rittenhouse was among the volunteers spotted earlier on Tuesday cleaning graffiti from a high school following another night of unrest in the city.
Much of Rittenhouse’s Facebook is devoted to praising law enforcement, with references to Blue Lives Matter – the movement that supports police. He also can be seen holding an assault rifle in several photos.
He once participated in a youth public safety cadet program and a photo from that time showed him dressed in what appears to be a blue law enforcement uniform.
News of Rittenhouse’s arrest came as President Trump said Wisconsin officials had accepted federal law enforcement support following several days of unrest across the city in the wake of the police shooting of black man Jacob Blake.
Witness accounts and video show that the shootings took place in two stages: The gunman first shot someone at a car lot, then jogged away, stumbled and fell in the street, and opened fire again as members of the crowd closed in him.
Police apparently then let the young man walk past them with a rifle over his shoulder with his hands in the air.
As for why the gunman was allowed to leave, Sheriff David Beth on Wednesday portrayed a chaotic, high-stress scene, with screaming, chanting, nonstop radio traffic and ‘people running all over the place’ – conditions that can cause ‘tunnel vision’ among law officers.
Rittenhouse, identified in court papers as a lifeguard at a YMCA in Lindenhurst, Illinois, was assigned a public defender in Illinois for a hearing on Friday upon his extradition to Wisconsin.
Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
Cellphone video showed the ordeal unfolded after a man was shot in the head outside a nearby auto garage. The videos showed the armed man running away in the moments after the gunshots rang out and he could be heard saying: ‘I’ve just killed somebody’.
Onlookers were filmed desperately trying to put pressure on the injured man’s head wound with a t-shirt as they yelled: ‘We’ve got to keep him alive’ and ‘put pressure, put pressure.’
It is not yet clear what happened in the lead up to the initial shooting but police fear it may have stemmed from a conflict at a gas station between ‘self-styled militias’ defending local businesses from looters.
Separate videos that captured the other two shootings showed a group of protesters tailing the gunman as he ran down the middle of the street. Someone in the crowd can be heard asking ‘What did he do?’ and another responds that the man had shot someone.
The videos show the gunman stumbling and falling in the street before one pursuer took a flying kick at him, while another appeared to strike him with a skateboard.
The gunman fired three of four shots from a seated position, hitting at least two people, including one who fell over clutching his chest and another who stumbled away putting pressure on his arm, according to the videos.
As the crowd scattered, the shooter stood up and continued walking down the street as police cars arrived.
The man, who still had his gun slung across him, put up his hands and walked toward the squad cars as someone yelled at police that the man just shot someone. Several police cars drove past him toward the people who had been shot.
Police said they fear that the shooting stemmed from a conflict between ‘self-styled militias’ defending local businesses from looters amid the ongoing unrest over the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Blake remains in hospital after being shot multiple times by a white Kenosha officer on Sunday, prompting a wave of protests that continued despite a curfew.
Several civilians were carrying weapons during the protests on Tuesday night and the gunman was believed to have been guarding a local car shop at some point prior to the shootings, according to videos posted online.
The so-called militias have had weapons slung over their shoulders or at the ready while standing guard outside businesses to protect them from looters or arsonists.
The sheriff told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that armed vigilantes had been patrolling Kenosha’s streets in recent nights, but he did not know if the gunman was among them.
However, video taken before the shooting shows police tossing bottled water from an armored vehicle to what appear to be armed civilians walking the streets. One of them appears to be Rittenhouse.
‘We appreciate you being here,’ an officer is heard saying to the group over a loudspeaker.
The sheriff later defended officers by saying, ‘Our deputies would toss water to anybody.’
Witness Sam Dirks, 22, from Milwaukee, said he had seen the suspected gunman earlier in the evening and he was yelling at some of the protesters.
‘He was definitely very agitated. He was pacing around, just pointing his gun in general. Not necessarily at anyone specifically,’ Dirks said.
Another witness, Julio Rosas, 24, said that when the gunman stumbled and fell, ‘two people jumped onto him and there was a struggle for control of his rifle. At that point during the struggle, he just began to fire multiple rounds and that dispersed people near him.’
‘The rifle was being jerked around in all directions while it was being fired,’ Rosas said.
Another protester Devin Scott told the Chicago Tribune that he witnessed the initial shooting and helped provide aid to the victim shot in the head.
‘We were all chanting ‘Black lives matter’ at the gas station and then we heard, boom, boom, and I told my friend, that´s not fireworks,’ the 19-year-old said.
‘And then this guy with this huge gun runs by us in the middle of the street and people are yelling, ‘He shot someone! He shot someone!’ And everyone is trying to fight the guy, chasing him and then he started shooting again.’
Scott said he rushed to help the injured man, saying: ‘I was cradling him in my arms. I was trying to keep this kid alive and he wasn’t moving or nothing. He was just laying there.
‘I didn’t know what to do and then this woman starts performing CPR. There was no pulse. I don´t think he made it.’
In the wake of the killings, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized 500 members of the National Guard to support local law enforcement around Kenosha, doubling the number of troops sent in. The governor’s office said he working other states to bring in additional National Guard troops and law officers.
Before the gunfire erupted, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets, tear gas and flash-bang rounds to push back demonstrators who defied a dawn-to-dusk curfew and gathered outside a courthouse and adjacent park.
About 300 demonstrators defied the city’s 8pm curfew again after Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency earlier following a night of violence and destruction that saw rioters set fire to businesses and vehicles across the city.
The shooting of Blake comes three months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis which sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department also deployed at least four armored patrol vehicles fitted with roof turrets from which deputies fired tear gas canisters into the crowd, many of whom hurled water bottles, bricks, firecrackers and other objects back at police.
But there was no immediate sign of buildings or cars being set ablaze, as happened on Monday night.
Demonstrators, some of whom were wearing helmets and equipped with makeshift protective gear, were seen trying to storm a black iron fence that had been installed earlier to protect the court from rioters.
Meanwhile, officers dressed in riot gear stood guard behind the barrier, holding up shields as protesters shouted expletives and hurled bottles at them.
Footage from the scene also showed people throwing fireworks in the direction of cops as they ignored their orders to disperse.
In one video shared by a journalist on Twitter, one man was seen trying to set fire to an American flag before being deterred by pepperballs fired by police.
Kenosha County sheriffs deputies warned crowds over loud speaker that they were participating in an unlawful gathering while urging them to leave the area.
The crowd responded by chanting ‘black lives matter’, prompting police to fire rubber bullets.
Several military-style armored patrol vehicles were also called in and were seen maneuvering around the county courthouse, firing tear gas at the crowd.
About three hours after declaring the protest an unlawful assembly, authorities had managed to push Tuesday night’s crowd out of the downtown park, with demonstrators scattering down streets.
The disturbances came hours after Governor Evers vowed to deploy additional National Guard troops in a bid to restore order in the town, while Blake’s mother publicly appealed for calm during a press conference held outside the court.
On Tuesday, President Trump, who has consistently denounced the BLM protests that have rocked the country in recent months, urged Wisconsin officials to call in the National Guard to quell the unrest, despite troops already being on the ground.
‘Governor should call in the National Guard in Wisconsin. It is ready, willing, and more than able. End problem FAST!’ Trump tweeted.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows later revealed Governor Evers had turned down Trump’s offer for federal assistance, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
A spokeswoman for Evers told the paper: ‘The governor informed them that we would be increasing Wisconsin National Guard support in Kenosha and therefore would not need federal assistance in response to protests but would welcome additional federal support and resources for our state’s response to COVID-19.’
Blake, 29, a father of six, was struck from behind at point-blank range in a hail of bullets fired on Sunday by police who were following him with guns drawn as he walked away from officers to his car and opened a door to the vehicle.
Three of his young sons inside the automobile – aged three, five and eight – witnessed their father being gunned down, according to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Blake family.
A bystander captured the encounter in video footage that immediately went viral, unleashing outrage over the latest in a long series of instances in which police have been accused of using indiscriminate lethal force against African Americans.
Blake, who had been attempting to break up a quarrel between two women, was struck by multiple gunshots fired at him, all by one officer.
Crump also revealed Blake was undergoing surgery for his injuries, adding that the bullets severed his spinal cord and shattered his vertebrae. Another attorney said there was also severe damage to organs.
‘It’s going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr to ever walk again,’ Crump said.
Protesters have begun to try to push over a fence in front of the courthouse in Kenosha. Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear have emerged from the courthouse. Some are throwing projectiles at the officers. pic.twitter.com/mkRMuUx3TK
The legal team plans to file a civil lawsuit against the police department over the shooting.
Police have not explained why Blake was shot.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Blake’s parents expressed anguish over the shooting while decrying two previous nights of looting, vandalism and arson that overshadowed peaceful street protests.
‘They shot my son seven times, seven times, like he didn’t matter,’ Jacobv Blake Sr said tearfully as he spoke to reporters alongside other family members and lawyers.
‘But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters.’
Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, said the damage in Kenosha does not reflect what her family wants and that, if her son could see it, he would be ‘very unpleased.’
After a night during which protests devolved into unrest, Gov. Evers had called for calm Tuesday saying: ‘We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue.’
‘We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.’
The night before crowds destroyed dozens of buildings and set more than 30 fires in the southeastern Wisconsin city’s downtown.
On Monday, heavily armed residents were also seen standing guard outside buildings and local shops in case they were targeted by rioters.
In footage shared online, a group of men were seen carrying rifles and wearing combat gear as they protect local shops. They denied they are part of a militia.