Julie Bosman and Sarah Mervosh
A teenager from outside Wisconsin was arrested in connection with a shooting that left two people dead during a chaotic night of demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The arrest came after a third night of unrest that has upended Kenosha and led Wisconsin’s governor to send hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard troops into the city. Protesters have poured into the streets to decry the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was paralyzed after a white officer fired on him seven times.
The violence that broke out during Wednesday’s protests came as demonstrators were scuffling with a group of men who were carrying guns and saying they wanted to protect the area from looting. The authorities said the white teenager who was arrested Wednesday morning was not a protester but they did not say what he was doing at the scene.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested in Antioch, Illinois, after being charged with first degree intentional homicide in the fatal shooting that took place hours earlier, according to a court document from Lake County, Illinois. Antioch is about 30 minutes southwest of Kenosha, just over the Illinois line.
A 17 y/o white supremacist, Kyle Rittenhouse, drove from Illinois to Wisconsin w/ an AR-15 to TERRORIZE BLM PROTESTORS
He shot several people ended up killing 2. Then is able to casually walk around police as if he didn’t just murder!
WHAT THE FUCK?!pic.twitter.com/eSdQm5eJ4Z
— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) August 26, 2020
As darkness grew along the crowded street on Tuesday, gunfire broke out, sending bystanders fleeing into parking lots and screaming in terror. A 26-year-old from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, and a 36-year-old from Kenosha were killed, the authorities said, and a third person was injured.
The fatal shooting followed a tense night of standoffs between the police and demonstrators and escalated a situation that had drawn the attention of President Donald Trump, who is in the third day of the Republican National Convention and has sought to portray Democratic cities as rife with dangers and crime.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that he planned to deploy federal law enforcement officials to Kenosha and that Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, had agreed to the help.
“I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!” he wrote on Twitter. He also wrote: “We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets,” said Trump, who is fighting for support in swing states like Wisconsin, which had surprised many in 2016 by picking Trump.
…TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2020
Evers on Wednesday announced that his office was sending more members of the Wisconsin National Guard to Kenosha on Wednesday — the numbers have grown to 500 from about 100 earlier in the week — amid the unrest. On Tuesday, Evers had declined federal assistance from the White Office, his office said, but additional conversations took place Wednesday and it was unclear whether Evers had agreed to federal offers of help and, if so, what that assistance would be.
The unrest in Kenosha has persisted night after night, while little information has been released about the shooting of Blake, who is in the hospital, partially paralyzed, according to his family. Video footage showed him being shot in the back as he tried to get into his car.
The authorities have not released details about what led to the encounter, or identified the police officer who shot him. That officer, as well as two others on the scene, have been placed on administrative leave.
The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the shooting. At a news conference Wednesday, Chief Daniel Miskinis of the Kenosha Police Department said that he supports Wisconsin’s policy of sending such police shootings to an outside team of investigators but “unfortunately, what that also brings is what you see here before you today: a chief who doesn’t have details about the incident.”
Local officials vowed not to let violence continue and announced that a curfew, which has been moved up to 7 pm, would extend until Sunday. “It’s something we have to do,” Sheriff David Beth said.
On Tuesday night, before the shootings near the gas station, loosely-organised demonstrations had taken place in a shifting, hourslong standoff between the police and protesters. Early in the night, protesters assembled outside a newly erected metal barrier protecting a county courthouse downtown and threw water bottles, rocks and fireworks at the police.
The police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, repeatedly warning the crowd through a bullhorn that they were violating the city curfew of 8 p.m. and risking arrest. The crowd was eventually forced out of the park with tear gas and onto city streets, where the standoff continued.
Many protesters left the area, but others lingered and walked to a gas station several blocks away. There, a group of men with guns stood outside, promising to protect the property and verbally sparring with the arriving protesters. As the night stretched on, the gas station became a tense gathering spot, with bystanders watching from parked cars and people milling around in the street, arguing and occasionally shoving each other.
Police officers had crept closer to the gas station in armored trucks, urging the people who were still there to go home.
After midnight, the shots rang out.
Beth said that the investigation was focused on the group of men with guns outside the gas station, and that investigators were scouring video taken just before the shooting.
In one video, the men are shouting at each other, clutching their guns and occasionally pulling each other away to defuse the conflict.
“I’ve had people saying, ‘Why don’t you deputize citizens?’ ” he said. “This is why you don’t deputize citizens with guns to protect Kenosha.”
On Tuesday, the family of Blake had called for calm. Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, had told reporters that she opposed the sort of destruction that had been left by protests spurred by her son’s shooting. On earlier nights, buildings and trucks had been burned down in Kenosha, a city of 100,000 people.
Jackson told reporters that she had been praying for the country to heal.
“I’ve noticed a lot of damage,” she said. “It doesn’t reflect my son or my family.”