A 17-year-old was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with the fatal shooting of two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin the night before. Kyle Rittenhouse was taken into custody in Antioch, Illinois, where he lives with his mother. The arrest comes after multiple videos linked the teen to the shooting in Kenosha where three people in total were shot with two of them dying.
Rittenhouse, who is a white “Blue Lives Matter” advocate, has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and is labeled a “fugitive from justice.” In the complaint from the Lake County, Illinois Clerk of Courts public records, it says that this label was issued because he “fled the state of Wisconsin with intent to avoid prosecution for that offense.”
Despite court records indicating that Rittenhouse tried to flee, video footage that has circulated of the protestors and armed men around the shooting may tell a different story. In a video taken after the shooting, someone who looks like Rittenhouse is seen walking with his hands in the air towards several police vehicles, which drive right by him. It is not yet confirmed if Rittenhouse attempted to surrender himself after the shooting.
But that is not the only camera to have allegedly captured Rittenhouse Tuesday night. In videos across social media, he can be seen carrying a large rifle, and earlier in the night, he openly identified himself and his motives for being present at the protests to a reporter from the Daily Caller — a right-wing news site.
“So people are getting injured and our job is to protect this business,” he tells the camera. “And part of my job is to also help people. If there is somebody hurt I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself, obviously. I also have my med kit.” Rittenhouse also confirmed that he attended the protest to defend properties in Kenosha from any vandalism.
This is Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, an Illinois resident who was just charged with first-degree murder of two people last night in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This teen, whose social media history is full of misogyny and white supremacy, had easy access to an AR-15.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 26, 2020
In a press conference on Wednesday, Kenosha Police Chief David Beth said that protestors should not have been out past curfew, and that if they weren’t, “perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.” Beth also seemed to deflect blame from Rittenhouse for shooting and killing two protestors saying, “A 17-year-old individual from Antioch, Illinois was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place. The result of it was two people are dead.”
While Beth did not hold Rittenhouse directly accountable as a person who shot and killed two people, rather than be “involved,” the teenager’s personal history speaks more to his reasons for being at the protest. According to The Daily Beast, Rittenhouse’s social media, which was taken down shortly before his arrest was made public, reveals that he supports the “Blue Lives Matter” cause and his page is full of pro-police commentary, as well as misogynist and white supremacist comments.
Rittenhouse is also suspected to be part of a group of armed militiamen. These men showed up to the Kenosha protests, which began after 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer over the weekend, paralyzing him from the waist down. Ongoing demonstrations have since demanded justice for Blake, whose children were watching at the time police shot him.
But the opposition to these protests is unrelenting. The group has been potentially linked to a call put out on Facebook by a group called the “Kenosha Guard,” a self-described militia group that called their actions Tuesday night a “call to arms.”
“Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” The Verge reported the group’s event post said. “No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the city to burn tonight.” Following the fatal shootings, Facebook took down the event and the group page for violating the platform’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, which was expanded earlier this month to include militia groups. The group could not confirm to The Verge whether Rittenhouse was a member.
Rittenhouse has been assigned a public defender and is scheduled to appear in court on August 28, according to public records. The fact that this white teenager took it upon himself to shoot and kill racial justice protestors is chilling evidence of the white supremacist radicalization happening across our country — and tacitly endorsed by our current president.
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