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Antioch teen arrested in fatal shooting during protests in Kenosha

Three people were shot, two fatally, during a third night of civil unrest after police shot Jacob Blake.

Police advance on protesters in Civic Park through a curtain of smoke, during a protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis.
Police advance on protesters in Civic Park through a curtain of smoke, during a protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

KENOSHA, Wis. — Police arrested an Illinois teenager Wednesday after two people were shot to death during another night of Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

A law enforcement official identified the suspect as 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch.

Commander Norman Johnson of the Antioch Police Department said the suspect was arrested on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide.

Antioch is about 15 miles from Kenosha, which has seen three straight nights of unrest since the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake.

In an attack caught on cellphone video, two people were killed Tuesday night when the shooter opened fire in the middle of the street with a semi-automatic rifle.

“I just killed somebody,” a person in the video could be heard saying at one point during the shooting rampage that erupted just before midnight.

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.

One victim was shot in the head and the other in the chest, authorities said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference in Kenosha.

Both men who were killed were from Wisconsin. One was a 26-year-old Silver Lake resident, identified by family members as Anthony Huber; the other, Joseph “Jojo” Rosenbaum, was a 36-year-old man from Kenosha.

A 26-year-old man from West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, also suffered a gunshot wound but is expected to survive.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said Wednesday it’s possible the shooter was part of a group that wanted him to deputize armed citizens to help maintain order.

“Yesterday I had a person call me and say, ‘Why don’t you deputize citizens who have guns to come out and patrol the city of Kenosha?’ And I’m like ‘Oh, hell no.’ And what happened last night was probably the perfect reason why I wouldn’t,” Beth said.

Beth said he wasn’t sure if the shooter was part of a vigilante group or militia, or if he’d been acting on his own.

Cell phone video of at least two of the shootings that was posted online shows a young person with a rifle jogging down the middle of a street as a crowd and some police officers follow him. Someone in the crowd can be heard asking, “What did he do?” and another person responds that the man had shot someone.

The male with the gun stumbles and falls, and as he is approached by people in the crowd, he fires three or four shots from a seated position, hitting at least two people, including one who falls over and another who stumbles away to cries of “Medic! Medic!”

A witness, Julio Rosas, 24, said when the gunman 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.”

In the cellphone footage, as the crowd scatters, the gunman stands up and continues walking down the street as police cars arrive. The man puts up his hands and walks toward the squad cars, with someone in the crowd yelling at police the man had just shot someone, but several of the cars drive past him.

Asked why officers didn’t take the shooter into custody as he walked toward police with his arms raised, Beth said he wasn’t sure but suspected the chaotic scene that included people running and screaming might have given the officers “tunnel vision.”

While it was unclear what prompted Rittenhouse to go to Kenosha, an event Tuesday night promoted by a group called the Kenosha Guard laid out plans to meet at Civic Center Park and called for “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property.”

Kevin Matthewson, a former Kenosha alderman, helped organize the event.

In the park Tuesday night, Matthewson told the Sun-Times he and his allies were arming themselves because police were “outnumbered” a night earlier by individuals who aimed to “destroy property and harm other people.”

“As long as good citizens arm themselves, we’ll never be outnumbered by the criminals,” said Matthewson, adding that he doesn’t believe “carrying a gun is any type of vigilantism.”

He didn’t respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The Kenosha Guard page was ultimately taken offline, along with the event. But not before the meet-up garnered thousands of responses and was promoted on the far-right website Infowars and the fringe message board 4Chan.

A video circulating on social media appears to show Rittenhouse interacting with law enforcement officials in militarized police vehicles before Tuesday’s shooting. At one point, an officer appears to offer bottles of water before others in the area are warned they’re trespassing.

As Rittenhouse goes to retrieve water, an officer thanks the group he’s with. “We appreciate you guys,” a voice says over a megaphone. “We really do.”

Asked why police would have shared water and seemingly encourage the presence of armed vigilantes, Beth said: “Our deputies would toss a water to anyone.“

Social media posts show Kyle Rittenhouse posing with a long gun and posing in what appears to be a police uniform.
Facebook

As national attention turned to Kenosha, the Milwaukee Bucks and Brewers canceled their games after players for both teams declined to play. And late Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Justice named the Kenosha police officer who shot Blake, a father of six, in the back. Rusten Sheskey is a seven-year veteran of the force.

The agency also said Blake had a knife in his vehicle, although it did not say whether authorities had determined he was reaching for it when the police officer shot him, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, about 200 protesters marched in a broad loop around Kenosha, returning to the park about an hour later. Government buildings remained barricaded, but police were nowhere to be seen.

Kejuan Goldsmith, who spent much of the march with a bullhorn leading protesters in chants of “Say his name, Jacob Blake” and “No justice, no peace,” said the plan was just to “keep everybody safe.”

“When they shot the tear gas and the rubber bullets, that’s when the rioting started [Tuesday night]. We were out here protesting peacefully, and they decided to shoot that tear gas canister, and it disrupted the peace.

“It wasn’t us, we were being peaceful yesterday, and they decided to make the people who were already angry enough even more angrier. You see tonight? There’s no cops, and there’s no violence,” Goldsmith said.

Sheriff Beth said the city’s curfew would be moved up from 8 p.m. to 7 p.m. and officers, who had largely not enforced curfew in previous days, were going to begin making arrests Wednesday if people flaunted the law.

“We are not going to put up with what we saw Monday night,” Beth said, referring to widespread looting and fires set by rioters.

Contributing: Associated Press, Manny Ramos, Sam Kelly