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Teen charged in fatal shootings at Wisc. protests

By ANDREW COHEN IN New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-08-27 11:15

People clean up debris from a building destroyed in the fallout from protests after Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S. August 26, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

A teenage suspect was arrested and charged with homicide Wednesday in the fatal shooting of two people in Wisconsin on Tuesday night amid protests stemming from the shooting of a black man by police on Sunday.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested on a warrant in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois — about 20 miles the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin — and charged with first-degree intentional homicide, said court officials in Lake County, Illinois.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said Rittenhouse "was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place".

The victims were identified only as a 26-year-old from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, and a 36-year-old from Kenosha. A third person also was injured in the shooting.

Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, has been rocked by nightly civil unrest since Sunday, when police there shot Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back in front of three of his children. The shooting, captured on video, has reignited protests over racism and police use of force in the US.

Blake, who was left paralyzed in the shooting, underwent another round of spinal surgery Tuesday, according to a lawyer for his family who spoke to CNN.

Despite calls for calm Tuesday from the Blake family, gunfire erupted shortly before midnight, despite an 8 pm curfew, following two nights of protests that included vandalism and arson that damaged several small businesses.

Expecting continued violence, city officials called for a 7 pm curfew for Wednesday night.

By Tuesday, Kenosha was filled with police, at least 100 National Guard members, protesters demanding justice for Blake, and armed militia members who said they were there to guard local businesses.

"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," said Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes to MSNBC on Wednesday before the arrest was reported.

In video from Tuesday night's melee, a crowd is seen chasing a man wielding a rifle, who 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 wounding another man in the arm.

As the crowd disperses around him, the man walks freely down the street, his hands in the air and his rifle hanging in front of him.

He walks past several police vehicles, which drive by without stopping him.

Police have not confirmed if Rittenhouse is the person in the videos.

Rittenhouse's now-deleted Facebook page showed him posing with another young man, both holding rifles in a photo set against a Blue Lives Matter badge in support of police.

A group called The Kenosha Guard, which identified itself on Facebook as a local militia, posted a "call to arms" that warned police the group would be out on the streets.

"We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia's call to arms," the group posted Wednesday on Facebook, presumably referring to the gunman in the videos.

Facebook has since deleted the group's page.

"At this time, we have not found evidence on Facebook that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page," a Facebook representative told theverge.com.

Tuesday's violence prompted some elected officials to call for a reinforcement of National Guard troops or the deployment of federal law enforcement.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he had spoken with Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who had agreed to accept federal law enforcement support.

"TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!" Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The violence coincided with this week's Republican National Convention, in which Trump has made "law and order" a campaign theme.

On Wednesday, Evers, a Democrat, authorized 500 more members of the National Guard to support Kenosha County, his office said.

"I again ask those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights please do so peacefully and safely, as so many did last night," Evers said.

"I also ask the individuals who are not there to exercise those rights to please stay home and let local first responders, law enforcement, and members of the Wisconsin National Guard do their jobs."

The NBA announced that it was postponing all three playoff games scheduled for Wednesday night after the Milwaukee Bucks and then other league basketball teams said they would boycott the games to protest the Blake shooting.

The Blake investigation is being conducted by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation.

On Wednesday night, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul released the name of the officer who shot Blake, Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha police who is now on administrative leave.

Kaul also revealed that Blake "admitted that had a knife in his possession" to responding police that was later found in his SUV.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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