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Teenager charged with homicide in shootings at Wisconsin protests; National Guard troops doubled

Civil unrest has rocked the city of about 100,000 that lies between Chicago and Milwaukee, since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back at close range.

August 27, 2020 / 07:46 AM IST

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 the city of about 100,000 that lies between Chicago and Milwaukee, since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back at close range.

On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks - the only NBA team based in Wisconsin - did not leave the locker room for their playoff game with the Orlando Magic in an apparent protest over the incident that reignited a movement against racism and police brutality that erupted across the United States in May.

The National Basketball Association later canceled all its games for Wednesday.

While outbreaks of vandalism and arson that destroyed several businesses marred the first two nights of protests, the third night turned deadly. Protesters and mostly white armed self-proclaimed 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 before the arrest was reported.

The suspected shooter 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, 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 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.


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, coming under attack, and fires his weapon, 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, his rifle hanging in front of him. Several police vehicles drove by without stopping him.

Asked at a news conference on Wednesday why officers did not confront the man, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said: "In situations that are high stress you have such an incredible tunnel vision. You have no idea what's outside."

Kenosha police asked witnesses to come forward, requesting additional video or photos beyond those posted on social media.

Video clips showed the shooter - who authorities believe is Rittenhouse - was a white man with an assault 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.

Beth said the shooting may have involved people who belonged to a group that had pushed him to deputize them to help police during the protests. The request was denied, he said.

On Wednesday, Facebook took down the page of the Kenosha Guard, a self-described local militia that 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.


Trump on Wednesday said he had spoken with Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, and that the governor agreed to accept U.S. law enforcement support. Evers said he had doubled the potential National Guard deployment to 500 troops, and was working to get reinforcement from other states.

Girding for a fourth night of turmoil, Kenosha officials moved a 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.

Anti-racism protesters also clashed with police in Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday night, part of a wave of national protests since George Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he spoke on Wednesday with Jacob Blake's family, "and I told them justice must and will be done." He condemned violent protest in Blake's name, calling it "needless."

Blake, paralyzed by the shooting, 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. Kenosha police have referred all queries to that agency.

first published: Aug 27, 2020 07:23 am