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Antioch teen arrested in Kenosha double murder is a high school dropout, Blue Lives Matter supporter

Residents of the far north suburb were bracing for violence in the wake of the arrest, and the city issued a curfew.

Kyle Rittenhouse, who was arrested in the shooting of 3 protesters in Kenosha Tuesday night, helps clean the exterior of Reuther Central High School Tuesday morning, Aug. 25, 2020
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Kyle Rittenhouse built an identity around his unwavering support for the cops.

But after the 17-year-old from Antioch was accused of shooting two people to death Tuesday night and wounding another amid the ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he’s found himself firmly on the other end of the law.

Antioch police reported Wednesday that Rittenhouse was arrested on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide after he allegedly opened fire during a protest that erupted in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse remains held in Lake County awaiting an extradition hearing Friday.

Meanwhile, a portrait has emerged of a high school dropout who used social media to back the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement and flash a high-powered weapon — one that looks similar to the one he was allegedly seen firing in a video of Tuesday night’s incident in Kenosha.

The header of Rittenhouse’s Facebook page, which has been taken offline, showed him posing in two separate photos with a rifle. His profile picture included a banner with a clear message: “Duty. Honor. Courage. Blue Lives Matter.”

Kyle Rittenhouse poses with a long gun in a Facebook profile picture with a message supporting the Blue Lives Matter movement.
Facebook

That countermovement emerged as Black Lives Matter protesters sought to hold accountable officers accused of brutality following high-profile police killings. Rittenhouse’s Facebook also included memorials to Samuel Jimenez, a Chicago cop killed during a mass shooting at Mercy Hospital in 2018, and McHenry County Deputy Sheriff Jacob Keltner, who was shot to death serving a warrant in Rockford last year.

A photo of the baby-faced alleged killer posted to another Facebook page belonging to his mother shows Rittenhouse clad in a blue cadet uniform adorned with a badge. WBEZ reported Wednesday that he participated in a “public safety cadet program” in the far northern suburbs.

Kyle Rittenhouse poses with his mother wearing a cadet uniform.

Rittenhouse also supported President Donald Trump, whose reelection campaign has centered on a “law and order” agenda. Buzzfeed News reported that Rittenhouse even attended Trump’s Jan. 30 rally in Des Moines, Iowa, posting video of the event from his front row seat.

Before the alleged shooting that took place shortly before midnight, Rittenhouse was photographed helping clean the exterior of Reuther Central High School Tuesday in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse later told a reporter he had been “pepper-sprayed” and said he and the other vigilantes weren’t using “non-lethal” ammunition. In another video circulating on social media, he explained his motive for being there.

“People are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business. And part of my job is to also help people,” he said. “If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself, obviously.”

Late Wednesday, the YMCA of Metro Chicago confirmed that Rittenhouse is a part-time employee who has been on furlough since March. The statement did not indicate where he worked.

“He will not be returning to the YMCA,” the YMCA said in a statement. “We abhor these violent acts. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims in this incident.”

Earlier, residents of Rittenhouse’s hometown described him as a middling adolescent.

Two people told the Sun-Times he dropped out of Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa. And another woman who lives in Rittenhouse’s apartment complex said a friend worked with him at a Culver’s restaurant.

The woman said she didn’t know him personally but was shocked when she saw the news.

“There’s a lot of racists in this world, and we’re coming to a World War III to be honest,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “There’s so much hate in this world.”

She described the apartment complex community as friendly.

“We all get along, we have every race here,” she said. “It’s not just white … so we all get along, there has never been a problem out here.”

Still, the shootings in Kenosha have sparked outrage among the community. Many Antioch residents said they were preparing for a long night of protests.

On Wednesday afternoon, Antioch police wrote on Facebook that recent social media posts “may imply that our community may experience social unrest.”

“Since becoming aware of this information, the police department has devoted its full attention to evaluating every one of these posts in an attempt to determine their level of validity and credibility,” the post reads.

Antioch Mayor Lawrence Hanson ultimately set a curfew from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. until further notice.

After boarding up their windows Wednesday afternoon, downtown business owners locked up early in preparation. They removed all planters and garbage cans, too.

Men board up an Antioch business Wednesday evening in preparation for a potential round of social unrest after a local teenager shot three people, killing three, during a protest a night earlier in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Madeline Kenney/Sun-Times

The woman from Rittenhouse’s complex decided to flee the city when she saw social media posts about potential violence in her neighborhood. She packed bags for her and her two children and plans to stay in a hotel until Monday.

“I’m getting out for safety,” she said. “It is scary. I’m terrified.”

“Hey, so am I, too,” her child chimed in from the backseat of the car.

A man who lives in a nearby residential area said he wasn’t too worried about the reports. However, police officers were seen patrolling near Rittenhouse’s apartment.

“I feel like if it came down here, and they were rioting in this part, people would probably just start shooting them,” said Bill, who wouldn’t give his last name. “If [rioting] started happening here, there would probably be gunshots.”

Antioch police officers stand in front of Kyle Rittenhouse’s apartment complex on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times