Kenosha police Chief Daniel Miskinis on Friday tried to rationalize why his officers allowed a teenage gunman to walk away from the scene after authorities have said he killed two people with an assault rifle — a situation that led to heavy criticism of the department.
Cellphone videos show that, in the moments after the Tuesday night shooting, Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, walked toward police while carrying a rifle, with his hands up — as if to surrender — as people nearby shouted to alert officers that he was the shooter.
But officers didn’t stop him, and Rittenhouse kept walking. He eventually made his way back to his nearby hometown of Antioch, where he later turned himself in.
“There were a lot of people in the area, a lot of people with weapons and unfortunately a lot of gunfire,” Miskinis said Friday at a news conference in Kenosha. “So what the officers were walking into, or driving into in this case, was a shots-fired complaint, not a shooting, not a person-down complaint. We have had many of those over the course of this unfortunate event.
“They see somebody walking toward them with his hands up. That, too, isn’t out of the ordinary given all the events going on.
“We have armed individuals out protesting or counter-protesting or simply walking around exercising their right, who will put their hands up,” Miskinis said. “It might have been abnormal two weeks ago. It’s no longer abnormal. So there was nothing to suggest this individual was involved in any criminal behavior.”
Given the circumstances, Miskinis said there was no lapse in judgement by his officers.
“Clearly, they’re not seeing him as a suspect or a threat of any kind,” he said.
But the contrasting treatment of Rittenhouse and Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by police last weekend during an arrest, has been criticized as a double standard. Cellphone video of Blake’s arrest sparked looting, riots and fires in Kenosha.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes called it “ridiculous” Thursday that Rittenhouse even came to town, heavily armed, with the intent of protecting businesses.
“For him to even be able to shoot somebody and still walk away from the scene. I mean, they talked about finding a knife inside of the car, not even on Jacob Blake’s person, but [if] this guy’s carrying a long gun and kills somebody just walking freely, was able to get back home to Illinois, then we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands,” he said.
Also at the Friday news conference, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said he hadn’t viewed the cellphone video of Blake’s shooting.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian said he has no plans to ask Miskinis or Beth to resign, as some groups have called for.
“Everyone is doing the best they can with the situation they have,” Antaramian said.