KENOSHA — Not long before Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois who was with a self-described "local militia" throughout Tuesday night’s deadly protests, allegedly killed two people and injured a third with gunfire, video shows law enforcement giving Rittenhouse water and telling his group “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”
Simultaneously in that video, other officers on loudspeakers can be heard telling Black Lives Matter demonstrators to clear the streets. (That video can be seen at bit.ly/2YwBLyD; it was taken by Milwaukee-based independent radio program The Rundown Live.)
When asked Wednesday about that interaction, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said "Our deputies would toss a water to anybody" including Black Lives Matter demonstrators, but he would not comment on the statement made by a deputy saying the militia's presence was appreciated.
Another video shows a person with the group saying that, earlier in the night, police had told them “We’re going to push them by you so you can deal with them.” (That video can be seen at bit.ly/2Yywk1V)
That specific interaction between armed civilians and law enforcement does not appear to have been recorded, but it is exactly what ended up happening — with law enforcement not moving south of the intersection of 60th Street and Sheridan Road; the armed groups had been set up south of that intersection. About three blocks south of 60th Street, near 63rd and Sheridan, is where shots first were heard and where one person was killed with a shot to the head.
A third video (also from The Rundown Live and viewable at bit.ly/3gvKLu6) shows Rittenhouse and another armed man identify themselves as local militiamen, despite Rittenhouse being from Illinois.
At 5 a.m. Wednesday, a second death was confirmed, and a third person was reported to have sustained "serious, but non-life threatening injuries" because of the shooting, according to the Kenosha Police Department.
Rittenhouse was reportedly taken into custody Wednesday by police in Illinois and is expected to be charged with first-degree homicide, a charge that carries a guaranteed life sentence in prison in Wisconsin.
Beth and Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis would not address why Rittenhouse got away Tuesday evening, since video shows him running toward law enforcement with his hands up while onlookers told police that he had just shot someone. However, Beth did say that in shooting scenarios, "tunnel vision" often kicks in, a phenomenon in which a person involved in a shooting (law enforcement or otherwise) does not notice things outside of their direct focus. He noted that, moments after shots were fired, there was likely a lot of radio chatter and there were many people shouting and running in Kenosha's streets, which Beth said may have allowed Rittenhouse to go unnoticed by law enforcement still inside armored Bearcat vehicles.
Still, many — including Wisconsin Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine — have raised concerns about how law enforcement handled the self-described militiamen and the shootings.
"I have deep concerns regarding interactions caught on video between armed militia members and members of law enforcement, as well as why the alleged shooter was not arrested immediately despite being identified by countless people in the crowd. As this investigation moves forward, we need answers and accountability," Neubauer said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "I am filled with grief and anger over the deaths of members of our Southeast Wisconsin community at the hands of a self-organized, right-wing 'militia' group. I have heard from so many of you who feel the same."
After Tuesday's events, Miskinis pleaded with the public to abide by the curfew. "The situation may not have happened" that led to Kyle Rittenhouse killing two people in Kenosha if curfew wasn't being broken, he said. Miskinis added that, starting Wednesday, law enforcement would be more aggressive with arresting and citing those out after curfew. On Monday and Tuesday, curfew went into effect at 8 p.m.; starting Wednesday and lasting through Sunday, curfew begins at 7 p.m.
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian added that law enforcement in Kenosha "doesn't need more guns on the street" as protests are expected to continue, and Beth said he would not be considering deputizing armed civilians to deal with those who break curfew.