Illinois Teen Charged With Murder After Kenosha Protest Shooting

Police in riot gear clear the area in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse during clashes with protesters late Tuesday in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(CN) — A 17-year-old Illinois resident was charged with murder Wednesday, accused of fatally shooting two people and injuring another during protests over the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, before fleeing across state lines.

Kyle Rittenhouse, who is white, was arrested in Lake County, Illinois, and has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection to the fatal shooting, according to a fugitive complaint from the Antioch Police Department.

Kenosha, a town of roughly 100,000 about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, has become the epicenter of the latest turbulent demonstrations against racist police brutality since Sunday night, when protests began hours after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back by white Kenosha police officers responding to a reported domestic incident and cellphone footage of the shooting circulated on social media.

As of Wednesday, Blake is currently paralyzed from the waist down and remains in serious condition at a Milwaukee hospital.

The unidentified officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard practice in such cases. The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation is leading an investigation into the shooting, a process expected to take weeks.

The charges against Rittenhouse are related to a fatal shooting in Kenosha during another intense night of protests over Blake’s shooting, which according to a statement from the Kenosha Police Department occurred at around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday night.

Two died in the shooting and a third was transported to a hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The names, ages and cities of residence for the victims are still being determined, according to Kenosha police.

Video of the Tuesday night shooting shows a white man armed with a long gun running away from a crowd of protesters before falling to the ground and firing multiple rounds into the crowd. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that one victim had been shot in the head and another in the chest.

Largely peaceful daytime protests have turned violent and destructive in Kenosha over the past three nights. Demonstrations of solidarity over Blake’s shooting have sprouted up from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, buttressed by gestures of support from noteworthy figures like NBA star LeBron James and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Support for the protests and a spirit of mourning from the sports world deepened on Wednesday as the NBA postponed three playoff games, leaving game five of each series to be rescheduled.

The unilateral league-wide decision was made after the Milwaukee Bucks forced the issue when they refused to leave their team locker room as the minutes ticked down ahead of the scheduled start of their game against the Orlando Magic in the NBA’s coronavirus bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Six Black members of the Milwaukee Common Council put out a joint statement calling the Bucks’ decision “a seminal moment” and applauded the hometown team “for stepping up and providing leadership by putting issues of racial justice ahead of sports.”

Since Sunday night, Kenosha has seen dozens of cars and buildings set on fire, destroyed businesses, vandalized state property and heated clashes between hundreds of protesters in defiance of an 8 p.m. curfew and law enforcement utilizing riot gear and deterrents such as tear gas and rubber bullets.

Democratic Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency on Tuesday and mobilized hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard members to assist state law enforcement, protect vital infrastructure and keep the protests safe and lawful.

Evers also called for a special legislative session on a variety of police reform bills, but leaders in the GOP-controlled Wisconsin Legislature have mostly been dismissive of such action.

The governor reacted to Tuesday night’s shootings in a press release Wednesday, saying “we as a state are mourning this tragedy” and expressed gratitude that one person had already been arrested while pushing for further swift action and condemning senseless violence that mars otherwise peaceful assembly.

“We must turn from violence and remember that any single act of injustice against one person is less justice for us all,” Evers said. “We cannot let the hateful actions of a few designed to create chaos distract us from our pursuit for a more fair, equitable and accountable state and country for Jacob Blake and the many others who deserve justice.”

Some Republican lawmakers in the Badger State, like Congressman Bryan Steil and state Senator Van Wanggaard, have repeatedly asked Evers to accept federal assistance in combating violent protests.

It would appear that assistance is en route to Wisconsin as of Wednesday afternoon, as President Donald Trump tweeted that his team spoke with Evers and the governor agreed to accept the help.

“We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets,” Trump said.

Kenosha officials, including Democratic Mayor John Antaramian and Sheriff David Beth, held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss their ongoing response to the protests in light of Tuesday night’s events.

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