KENOSHA, Wis.: A teenager was arrested and charged with homicide on Wednesday in connection with gunfire that killed two people and wounded a third during protests over the police shooting of a Black man in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha.
Civil unrest has rocked Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 on Lake Michigan north of Chicago, since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back at close range.
The incident, captured on video, sparked protests over racism and the excessive use of force against minorities by law enforcement officers, reigniting a movement that erupted across the United States earlier in the summer.
While outbreaks of vandalism and arson that destroyed several businesses marred the first two nights of protests, the third night turned deadly as protesters and mostly white armed militia members, who said they had been guarding local businesses, began to clash in the streets.
“What it seems to be is a member of a militia group who decided to be a vigilante and take the law into his own hands and mow down innocent protesters,” Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes told MSNBC television on Wednesday before the arrest was reported.
The suspected gunman in the shooting was identified as Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, who was arrested on a warrant in Illinois and charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the shootings overnight, according to court documents.
The public defender’s office in Lake County, Illinois, where Rittenhouse was being held pending extradition to Wisconsin, declined to comment.
The violence coincided with the second night of the Republican National Convention, which has nominated President Donald Trump as the party’s candidate in the Nov. 3 election. Trump has made “law and order” crackdowns on violent protests a centerpiece of his campaign.
CHAOS ON VIDEO
Social media videos captured much of the overnight violence, but not the initial confrontation involving the gunman. The videos show a crowd chasing the gunman, with some in the crowd shouting that he had shot a man.
The gunman then falls to the ground where he comes under attack, but he fires a number of rounds, appearing to hit a man in the torso, who falls to the ground, and seriously wounding another man in the arm.
As the crowd around him disperses, the man walks freely down the street, hands in the air and his rifle hanging in front of him. He walks past several police vehicles, which drive by without stopping him.
Kenosha police said in a statement that two people had died and a third gunshot victim was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, but he was expected to live. They pleaded for witnesses to come forward, requesting additional video or photos beyond those posted on social media.
Video clips showed the shooter – who authorities evidently believe is Rittenhouse – was a white man with a rifle.
The suspect’s now-deleted Facebook page shows him posing with another young man, both holding rifles. The photo is encircled by a Blue Lives Matter badge in support of police.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth told a news conference on Wednesday that he believed the shooting may have involved people who were part of a group that had pushed him to deputize them to help police during the protests. He said he denied that request.
On Wednesday, Facebook took down the page of the Kenosha Guard, a self-described local militia which had called on members to help protect the streets.
“We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the group said earlier on Wednesday.
‘LAW AND ORDER’
Trump on Wednesday said had spoken with Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who had agreed to accept U.S. law enforcement support. While not confirming the president’s assertion, Evers said he had doubled the potential National Guard deployment to 500 officers.
In preparation for a fourth night of turmoil, Kenosha officials moved the nighttime curfew ahead by one hour to 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT).
“TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!” Trump wrote on Twitter, without elaborating.
Anti-racism protesters also clashed with police in Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday night, part of a wave of national protests that have taken place since George Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he spoke on Wednesday with the family of Jacob Blake, the man shot by police, “and I told them justice must and will be done.” He condemned violent protest in Blake’s name, calling it “needless.”
Blake is paralyzed. He underwent another round of surgery on Tuesday to stabilize his spine with rods and screws, Patrick Salvi Sr., a lawyer for Blake’s family, told CNN on Wednesday.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation into Blake’s shooting and has yet to provide details. Kenosha police have referred all queries to that agency.