Police have charged Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, with first-degree murder after two people were killed and one wounded amid protests Tuesday night in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Social media photos and videos showed a young man toting an assault rifle, said by some online to be a member of a vigilante white supremacist “boogaloo” group called upon by its members to defend the city against protesters outraged by the police shooting of unarmed black man Jacob Blake earlier this week.
Other reports said a militia/domestic terrorist group called the Kenosha Guard had posted a “call to arms” to its followers Facebook, writing, “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?”
The Verge reports: “The event was also promoted by Infowars, which posted a screenshot of the Facebook event listing. The listing is no longer publicly accessible but, reached on Facebook, the Kenosha Guard account confirmed to The Verge that the screenshots were authentic. The group’s Facebook page has also been taken down, but it boasted more than 3,000 members as of this morning.”
The Daily Dot reports: “According to the Lake County, Illinois Clerk of Courts public records, obtained by the Daily Dot, Rittenhouse has been charged with first-degree murder in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and labeled a ‘fugitive from justice.’ The complaint states that Rittenhouse ‘fled the state of Wisconsin with intent to avoid prosecution for that offense.'”
The Daily Dot adds: “A Facebook profile purportedly belonging to the teen is rife with pro-police content. In his profile pic, he poses with a high-powered rifle that appears identical to the Kenosha shooters. The image’s frame reads, ‘Duty Honor Courage Blue Lives Matter.’ Other videos online purportedly show the shooter hanging out with heavily armed civilians at last night’s protest and being given water and thanked by police. This was presumably prior to the shooting. ‘We appreciate you guys, we really do,’ an officer says in the video. In yet another video the alleged shooter says that he and the other armed men are there to protect lives and property.”
The NYT noted earlier that much of the activity at the location of the shootings centered around a gas station near a park from which protesters had been forced by police: “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.”
The Washington Post earlier reported on the killings after video and photos were posted to social media: “Two people were killed and one was seriously wounded by gunfire late Tuesday at a protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake Jr., Kenosha police said early Wednesday. … Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that police are searching for a man seen in video footage holding a long gun.”
The Guardian reported on alleged footage of Rittenhouse: “Social media users posted a series of images including video that appeared to show the same individual at key points during the confrontation, including interacting with police in a tactical vehicle who say they ‘appreciate’ the alleged vigilantes’ help and give them bottled water. … In these pictures, the man, who appears to be in his late teens or early 20s, carries an assault-style rifle, a distinctive black and orange shoulder bag, wearing what appear to be purple nitrile gloves of the kind used by first aiders and hospital staff. … The footage shows the same individual with the same distinctive bag and gloves appearing holding a weapon and approaching the spot where a young white man without a shirt has fallen with a gunshot wound to the head. … Other footage, from different angles, then shows what appears to be the same man jogging down a street being pursued by others. … The alleged gunman is finally seen heading north towards several police tactical vehicles, with his arms raised as the tactical vehicles drive by him.”
Warning: some of the footage is graphic.