Police in Antioch, Ill., about 20 miles west of Kenosha, said they had arrested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse and described him as a suspect in the incident. They said Rittenhouse, an Antioch resident, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Wisconsin, but they did not specify whether he was being charged in one fatal shooting or both.
A police complaint filed in Lake County, Ill., by the Antioch police described him as a fugitive, saying that Rittenhouse had been charged with homicide in Wisconsin and fled “with the intent to avoid prosecution for that offense.” According to minutes from a hearing on Wednesday, he was held without bond, and a hearing Friday will deal with his potential extradition to Wisconsin.
“My heart breaks for the families and loved ones of the two individuals who lost their lives and the individual who was injured last night in Kenosha,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said in a statement. “We as a state are mourning this tragedy.”
News of the arrest came as Kenosha was bracing for a potential fourth night of violent unrest on Wednesday. Evers and other authorities pledged a more robust law enforcement response on Wednesday evening after the Tuesday shooting, which followed a confrontation between protesters and armed men in Kenosha who said they were protecting a gas station, according to witnesses.
“Every day we get better” responding to the unrest, Sheriff David G. Beth said at a news briefing Wednesday. “In Kenosha, we are not accustomed to riots.”
Self-declared militia members had arrived in town before the gunfire, though Beth said he did not know for sure whether the 17-year-old suspect was part of such a group.
The sheriff said he had been asked why he would not deputize citizens with guns to patrol Kenosha, and he pointed to what happened Tuesday as “probably the perfect reason why I wouldn’t” do so.
“There’s no way I would deputize people,” he said.
Shots were fired around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, police said. After the first shots, a young White man carrying a rifle began running north on Sheridan Road, away from a crowd of protesters.
Video shows the armed man fall to the ground and then fire multiple rounds into the crowd. Two more people fell to the ground, one shot in the arm and the other in the chest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Another graphic video shows a man with blood running down the back of his neck and bystanders shouting that he had been shot in the head.
A Washington Post journalist who observed the scene saw the man with the rifle run by with a few protesters in pursuit after gunfire erupted about a block away. He tripped and fell, rolled into a sitting position, raised his gun, and opened fire at his pursuers.
Carol Badoni from Burlington, Wis., started CPR on one wounded man. His girlfriend said his name is Ben.
“He definitely was not breathing,” said Badoni, 50. “His eyes were rolled back in his head. There was no pulse.”
Badoni added, “I never run toward trouble, but it’s worth getting shot for somebody else.”
Police soon took the wounded man to a hospital. Kenosha police did not immediately identify any of the shooting victims.
The city has been rocked by protests since Blake, a 29-year-old, was shot by police on Sunday, an incident that quickly went viral and prompted a nationwide outcry. It also reverberated in professional sports, leading to a stunning protest in the National Basketball Association. On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks — who normally play less than an hour from Kenosha — declined to take the court for a scheduled playoff game, prompting the league to postpone the other two games scheduled to follow it.
The shooting also inspired dramatically different responses from across the American political divide. Three days after Blake’s shooting, President Trump had still not addressed it directly, though his surrogates at this week’s Republican National Convention have repeatedly expressed their support for police officers.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, condemned the rioting while signaling solidarity with the demands of protesters for an end to systemic racism in law enforcement. On Wednesday, he and his ticket-mate, vice-presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris, spoke by phone with Blake’s family.
Authorities have still released little information about Blake’s shooting, which is being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
At their news briefing Wednesday, local officials offered their most extensive public comments since Blake’s shooting sparked the demonstrations and unrest, even as they largely avoided specifics about what happened and the investigation.
Daniel Miskinis, the Kenosha police chief, said he was thankful Blake survived the shooting but stressed that he lacked information about it because it was being investigated by another agency. He said three officers who were at the scene had been placed on leave.
Miskinis declined to address the viral video of Blake being shot, saying it would be “unfair to everybody involved” to comment on footage capturing just a limited part of the overall encounter.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice on Wednesday provided new details of what it said investigators have learned about the shooting, saying that a knife was found in Blake’s car after he was shot Sunday.
The 29-year-old told investigators after the shooting about the knife he had in his possession, the department said. The agency did not say if any of the officers at the scene saw the knife or knew it was there.
The agency also said Kenosha police were attempting to arrest Blake when Rusten Sheskey, a 7-year veteran of the department, fired his weapon seven times into the Black man’s back, the first time officials had identified the officer who shot him.
Blake’s family said Tuesday that he is paralyzed and still in serious condition, while his mother pleaded for peaceful protests. But the family also chastised police, saying they systematically brutalize Black people, and their attorneys said Blake was shot in front of his children.
“They shot my son seven times,” said Jacob Blake Sr., his father. “Seven times. Like he didn’t matter. But my son matters. He’s a human being, and he matters.”
Miskinis did appear to hold those who were shot Tuesday at least partly responsible, noting that they were among many who were out despite a curfew.
“Everybody involved was out after the curfew,” he said. “The curfew’s in place to protect. Had persons involved not been in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.”
On Wednesday, Evers announced that he was increasing the Wisconsin National Guard contingent in Kenosha to 500 members. Also on Wednesday, Trump posted on Twitter that he would “be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha,” though it was unclear what he meant by sending federal officials.
“I want to be very clear: we should not tolerate violence against any person,” Evers said in a statement Wednesday.
Officials said Wednesday that they could not comment in detail on cellphone video that showed police officers thanking armed civilians for being on the streets after the curfew and handing over bottles of water.
They also declined to provide an explanation for video and witness accounts that appeared to show the gunman attempting to surrender to police — his arms aloft — only for police to tell him to get off the streets and go home.
Kenosha authorities acknowledged that they had been overwhelmed by the challenge of responding to the unrest and have struggled to communicate a clear message.
“I’m not good at this,” Mayor John Antaramian said. “This isn’t what I’m used to.”
Antaramian said authorities are learning from their mistakes and asked civilians not to take it upon themselves to police the streets.
“I don’t need more guns on the streets in this city when we are trying to keep people safe,” he said.
The confrontation near the gas station late Tuesday unfolded after police dispersed protesters outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, where demonstrators had been lobbing fireworks at the building and the officers protecting it.
Police set off tear gas and drove protesters in the direction of the gas station, where they were met by armed men — members of what police described as vigilante militia groups that have descended on the city.
One of the armed men near the gas station told The Washington Post that he was there to stop people from breaking into local businesses, noting that he had seen rumors online about pipe bombs being used.
“If the cops aren’t going to stop them from throwing pipe bombs on innocent civilians, somebody has to,” said an armed man in a red checkered shirt, who declined to give his name. (There’s no indication that any pipe bombs were involved in Tuesday’s protest.)
Other cities also saw demonstrations Tuesday night with some damage, though none reaching the levels seen in Kenosha.
Police in Madison, the Wisconsin capital, reported that for the second consecutive night, they had arrested four people after a march near the Capitol gave way to property damage and some fires.
In Portland, Ore., police said a group damaged windows and entered city hall and set a fire nearby. Police said they arrested 23 people in Portland and booked them on charges that included disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer, and resisting arrest.
In Kenosha, from the start of Tuesday’s protests, armed civilians were a prominent presence in the crowd, bearing handguns, AR-15-style rifles, knives and military flak jackets. In interviews, they declined to give their full names. Like some others, Dennis, 22, from Racine, Wis., said he showed up with his pistol to protect himself and other protesters.
“Nothing is going to change,” he said, hanging back from the crowd. “This is all for nothing.”
Another man, brandishing a handgun, said he showed up after a call on Facebook to protect the city.
In Portland and other cities in recent days and weeks, members of far-right, self-declared militias armed with paintball guns, bats and pepper spray, as well as lethal weapons, have battled leftist and Black Lives Matter activists in the name of backing police in their confrontations with protesters.
“Ain’t nothing being done. We’re the only ones,” said Joe, 29, a U.S. Marine veteran. “This is nonsense,” he said, scanning the crowd, adding that others like him were around Kenosha on Tuesday night. “Three thousand of us are armed and ready.”
After multiple buildings burned and stores were looted Monday, police Tuesday night made it harder for people to enter Kenosha. Seven consecutive exit ramps were closed on Interstate 94, and the city’s sprawling outlet mall was boarded up.
Evers, the governor, had declared an emergency Tuesday and said a larger National Guard contingent would be on the ground in Kenosha ahead of that evening’s protests, while local officials announced another overnight curfew.
Rep. Bryan Steil (R) said the situation in Kenosha still “went from bad to worse” overnight Tuesday and called the National Guard deployment at that point “woefully insufficient.”
In downtown Kenosha on Tuesday night, the only visible law enforcement presence was around the Kenosha County Courthouse, where an eight-foot-high fence was erected around the building. About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the barrier, and besides occasional chanting, the scene was quiet at first.
“A lot of fear in the air because of the threats to protesters,” said Nathan, 28, a Kenosha resident who declined to give his last name.
“It’s hard to see now, but it will be a positive thing,” he said of the protests. “It’ll bring Kenosha back together. Kenosha has always been a resilient place. It’ll continue to happen.”
After some protesters began vigorously shaking the fence and setting off fireworks aimed at officers on the other side, Kenosha County police officers atop the courthouse shot tear gas pellets and rubber bullets into the crowd. Around 9:20 p.m., a military vehicle entered the park, dispersing more tear gas. Protesters shot fireworks, both on the ground and into the courthouse steps.
By 10 p.m., after pushing protesters away from the fence, about 70 officers in riot gear formed a line across the park outside the courthouse as clouds of tear gas continued to drift toward the crowd.
Police pushed protesters to Sheridan Road after 11 p.m., where law enforcement in armored trucks blocked the street. Nearby, the confrontation brewed with armed men at the gas station. Within an hour, the street exploded into chaos and bloodshed as the gunshots rang out.