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The white teenager accused of opening fire on three people, killing two, during protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of a Black man had allegedly aligned himself with a militia group seeking to be deputized by police during the unrest.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is now facing first-degree intentional homicide charges after allegedly shooting three protesters Tuesday night, including one man fatally shot in the head.
Protesters have filled the streets of Kenosha every night since Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot multiple times in the back by police Sunday night outside his vehicle. Blake survived the shooting, but his family says he's paralyzed from the waist down.
Rittenhouse had allegedly aligned himself with a group of armed militia who said they were trying to protect life and property during the protests, parts of which have become violent, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said the group wanted to be deputized by authorities during the protests—but that request had been quickly shot down earlier in the day.
“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?” Beth said at a press conference Wednesday, according to The New York Post. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ What happened last night is the perfect reason why I wouldn’t.”
Beth said Rittenhouse had been “part of this group that wanted me to deputized them,” but said the idea of deputizing armed citizens would put the community at risk.
“In reality, that would’ve been one deputy sheriff who killed two people, and the liability that goes with that would’ve been immense,” he said.
The large amount of militia on hand Tuesday night during the protests has been attributed to a group known as the Kenosha Guard. The group created a now-defunct Facebook page announcing an event called “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property” and claimed in a post written to Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis that they had received about 3,000 RSVPs to the event.
“I ask that you do NOT have your officers tell us to go home under threat of arrest as you have in the past,” the post said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We are willing to talk to KPD and open a discussion. It is evident that no matter how many Officers, deputies and other law enforcement officers that are here, you will still be outnumbered.”
Authorities have not officially confirmed that Rittenhouse had been a part of that group, but various footage taken that night appears to show the teen standing with large groups of armed militia.
Rittenhouse was interviewed by The Daily Caller before the violence broke out in a clip posted on social media.
"People are getting injured and our job is to protect this business," Rittenhouse said as he stood in front of a boarded-up building. "And my job also is to protect people. If someone is hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle; I’ve gotta' protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit."
Rittenhouse also appears to be in footage taken by The Rundown Live. As the footage begins, a man fitting Rittenhouse’s description and who identifies himself as “Kyle” is seen standing outside a local car shop armed with a gun, along with other militia members.
About an hour and a half later, a man matching his description is seen getting a water bottle from police; one officer tossing the water from an armored police vehicle says, “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”
Just 15 minutes later, militia members and citizens appear to be milling around armed with bats, guns and in one case—a table leg—before a series of gunshots can be heard.
“Those are guns,” Kristan Harris, who was filming for The Rundown Live, can be heard saying in the footage. “That is not normal, that’s a gun.”
Minutes later—after more gunshots go off—calls of “medic” can be heard and police begin to swarm the area.
“This is what you all get acting tough with f---ing guns,” one man can be heard shouting in the crowd.
The victims were later identified as 26-year-old Anthony Huber and a 36-year-old man from West Allis who was also killed. Another 26-year-old was also injured in the shooting.
The 36-year-old was allegedly killed first. Separate video footage from the scene posted on Facebook appears to show Huber trying to chase down a man matching Rittenhouse’s description after the 36-year-old had been shot, when the gunman turns and opens fire on those chasing him.
“Oh s---, he just shot that guy in the stomach,” the videographer can be heard saying as more gunfire rings out in the disturbing footage. “Oh s---, s---, people are getting shot all around us.”
Rittenhouse was arrested the following day at his home in Antioch, Illinois, according to a statement from the Village of Antioch police.
He is currently in the custody of the Lake County Judicial system pending an extradition hearing to return him to Wisconsin.
Just before the Kenosha Guard took down their Facebook page, they appeared to distance themselves from the suspect.
"We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the post read, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgment. God Bless and stay safe Kenosha!"
Rittenhouse’s own Facebook page, which has since been taken down, had been filled with “Blue Lives Matter” posts, photos of himself posing with guns and video footage he had taken from the front row of a Trump rally, according to The Washington Post.
Rittenhouse, who had allegedly dropped out of high school and was living with his single mom at the time of the shootings, appeared to idolize the police and had participated in cadet programs with both the Antioch Fire Department and the Grayslake Police Department, the newspaper reports.
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