Police have arrested a suspect in the shooting of three people ― two fatally ― during a third night of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, county Sheriff David Beth told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The suspect, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, was reportedly arrested in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, and charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday. Police had been searching for him after a man holding a long gun was captured on video shooting several people during the protests and then fleeing the scene.
Protesters clashed with police outside the Kenosha County Courthouse after a local white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, multiple times in the back with his children nearby over the weekend.
The third night of demonstrations appeared to turn deadly when heavily armed white vigilantes entered into the mix.
Investigators say they are focusing on a group of men with guns who were lined up outside some businesses a few blocks down the road from the courthouse, Beth told The New York Times. Ostensibly, the vigilantes were there to “protect” businesses from fires that had been set during previous nights of demonstrations.
Some may have been drawn to the city through a Facebook post by a group calling itself the Kenosha Guard, which encouraged “patriots” to “take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs,” The Verge reported.
In one video circulating social media, a person with a long gun is jogging down a main road when he appears to trip, firing off shots at protesters around him before getting up and trotting toward police vehicles (in the video, embedded below, one person falls to the ground after approaching the shooter and does not get up).
It was not immediately clear how many people were involved in the gunfire late Tuesday and early Wednesday, including whether more than one person fired rounds.
Law enforcement said officers responded to reports of shots fired at 11:45 p.m. and have not yet released the identities of those killed or injured.
One of the deceased was shot in the head and the other was shot in the chest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The third gunshot victim is being treated for serious yet non-life-threatening injuries at a nearby hospital.
Earlier Tuesday night, protesters set off fireworks and threw bottles against a newly constructed fence encircling the county courthouse. By 10 p.m., police were pushing for people to disperse and head home, firing off tear gas, the Chicago SunTimes reported. Some of the demonstrators then walked in the direction of the armed vigilantes.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he was mobilizing federal authorities and National Guard troops to Kenosha in response to “lawlessness” and violence there.
…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
Video of Blake’s shooting was released Sunday night and immediately recalled the excessive force used by white police officers against George Floyd, a Black man who died after being pinned to the ground by his neck for several minutes. Protests over Floyd’s death took off nationwide and lasted weeks; in some places they have yet to stop.
An attorney for Blake’s family said the 29-year-old was trying to de-escalate a domestic violence situation when he walked away from police and opened the driver’s side door of an SUV, in which his three children ― ages 3, 5 and 8 ― were waiting. In the video, one officer appears to then shoot Blake seven times in his back.
“They shot my son seven times,” Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., said Tuesday. “Seven times like he didn’t matter, but my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters.”
Benjamin Crump, co-counsel to the family, said it would “take a miracle” for Blake to walk again. Doctors say he is paralyzed from the waist down, having suffered injuries to one arm, his kidneys, liver and spinal cord.
The officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
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