In August 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse — a 17-year-old from north suburban Antioch — crossed state lines and volunteered to patrol downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid turmoil surrounding the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer. Carrying an AR-15-style rifle that police say a friend illegally purchased for him, Rittenhouse fatally shot two people and injured a third.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty, arguing he killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz in self-defense. Here’s how a chaotic, violent night in Southeast Wisconsin became a flashpoint in the national debate over gun rights and racial inequities.
Who is Kyle Howard Rittenhouse?
- 17 years old at the time of the Kenosha shooting.
- Attended Lakes Community High School for a short time during the 2017-18 school year but was no longer enrolled in the district at the time of the shooting. His mother told the Tribune he was completing his high school diploma online.
- Lived in an apartment complex in Antioch with his sisters and mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, who worked as a nurse’s assistant at a local assisted living facility. In January 2017, his mother sought an order of protection, accusing one of Rittenhouse’s classmates of bullying her son with taunts of being “dumb” and “stupid,” as well as threatening to hurt him, but ultimately dropped the request, according to Lake County court records.
- Worked as a lifeguard at a YMCA in Lindenhurst until he was furloughed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Took a lifeguarding job in a small Wisconsin town in the summer of 2020.
- Idolized police and participated in programs for aspiring cops.
- Attended an Iowa rally for former President Donald Trump on Jan. 30, 2020.
- Posted a video on TikTok of himself firing a semi-automatic rifle at a target, while the song “Sail” by Kreepa plays. The rifle in the video, which was posted in August 2020, appears identical to the one he was seen carrying on Aug. 25, 2020.
Why was Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020?
His attorneys say Rittenhouse went to Kenosha, located about 20 minutes from Antioch, after his lifeguarding shift Aug. 25, 2020, to help remove graffiti drawn during the ongoing unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake. The city is a former auto manufacturing hub of 100,000 people about 60 miles north of Chicago.
On Aug. 23, 2020, three Kenosha police officers including Rusten Sheskey, who is white, were dispatched to a residence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after Laquisha Booker called police reporting that her partner, Blake, had taken the keys to her rental vehicle, a gray Dodge SUV, which he would not return to her.
A cellphone video recording of the incident — viewed around the world as the U.S. was still reeling from the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd — shows Blake walking from the sidewalk around the front of the SUV as officers follow and shout at him with their guns pointed. As Blake opened the door and leaned into the SUV, Sheskey grabbed his shirt from behind and opened fire while Blake had his back turned. Blake is paralyzed from the waist down. The officer was never charged.
In the immediate aftermath, people took to the streets. Objects were thrown at police and their vehicles, and officers responded with tear gas.
How did Rittenhouse obtain an assault rifle?
A few months before the shooting, Rittenhouse — who at age 17 could not legally purchase a firearm — gave his friend Dominick Black money to buy an AR-15-style rifle for him at a hardware store in northern Wisconsin. Black told police he stored the gun at his stepfather’s home in Kenosha and knew Rittenhouse had taken the weapon to the demonstrations that night.
“I don’t know why … the whole time I’m thinking ‘he’s not 18.’ In my head, like, I could have stopped it. But I know if I would have told him ‘no,’ he would have threw a fit.”
Dominick Black, bought assault rifle for Kyle Rittenhouse
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Prosecutors will be allowed to tell the jury how Rittenhouse obtained the weapon, but the judge has barred attorneys from revealing that Rittenhouse used his federal stimulus money and unemployment benefit to obtain the gun.
Black has been charged with two felony counts of supplying a dangerous weapon to a minor causing death and could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted on both counts. His case has been put on hold until after the Rittenhouse trial.
The shooting and aftermath, Aug. 25, 2020
- 8 p.m. Police and National Guard members dispersed protesters as curfew began.
- 9:30 p.m. Military-style trucks pulled in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse and released clouds of tear gas, but most protesters stay put.
- Later that night: Rittenhouse told police he had been hired to protect a business at 63rd Street and Sheridan Road in Kenosha. In an interview with the Daily Caller that night, Rittenhouse referred to his presence as his “job” and explained his self-appointed responsibilities in police-like vernacular. In another video clip, officers in an armored vehicle can be seen tossing bottles of water to Rittenhouse and other armed civilians. Though the people are clearly violating the city’s 8 p.m. curfew and Rittenhouse is too young to openly carry a firearm in Wisconsin, an officer expresses his gratitude for the group.
“People are getting injured and our job is to protect this business. And part of my job also is to protect people. If someone is hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle; I’ve gotta protect myself obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
Kyle Rittenhouse, Aug. 25, 2020
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- 11:44 p.m. Vehicles in a used car lot at 5821 Sheridan Road were set on fire.
- 11:46 p.m. Rittenhouse walked toward the lot and at some point crossed paths with Joseph Rosenbaum, 36. Prosecutors say FBI surveillance cameras show Rittenhouse engage Rosenbaum and then Rosenbaum start chasing Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, who was loaded into the back of a black SUV minutes later. He died from his injuries.
- 11:46 p.m.-11:51 p.m. After shooting Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse ran north on Sheridan Road and people began to follow. He tripped and fell, and discharged the rifle again. Anthony Huber, 26, then hit the teen with a skateboard. Rittenhouse then shot Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. Huber died from his injuries and Grosskreutz was wounded. Later, Rittenhouse told officers that he had been hit in his lower neck and head with a baseball bat and a skateboard before firing his weapon, according to a police report.
“We have multiple people down. Clear the area. We don’t want any more people shot. We have multiple shooters out here. Clear the area!”
An officer with a megaphone, urging people to clear the area
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- About midnight: Video from the scene of the protests shows Rittenhouse apparently trying to surrender to police in Kenosha after the shootings, but they don’t arrest him. Rittenhouse told Antioch officers early the next morning that when he tried to speak with officers in Kenosha after the shootings, but was told to go home.
- 1:26 a.m.: Rittenhouse and his mother arrived in the lobby of the Antioch police station. He was wearing the same jeans and tan-colored boots he had worn during the protests, according to police reports. “I shot two white kids,” he told police.
- While waiting for Kenosha detectives to arrive, Rittenhouse repeatedly asked to speak with his sisters and his friend, Dominick Black, who were back at the family’s apartment. Police allow the teen to make the phone call, which quickly turns into a discussion about social media reaction to the shooting.
- 4 a.m. Rittenhouse is taken into custody by local police. He was charged as an adult and ordered held without bail in a juvenile detention facility in Lake County.
- 4:32 a.m. Dominick Black, 19, met with police at Rittenhouse’s home and police searched his 2005 white Ford Taurus. Two AR-15-style rifles were found inside the car’s trunk. One was fully assembled and had been used by Rittenhouse in the shootings, the other was disassembled and belonged to Black.
- first-degree intentional homicide.
- first-degree reckless homicide.
- two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.
- attempted first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
President Donald Trump visited Kenosha over the objections of the city’s mayor and Wisconsin’s governor.
“We have to condemn the dangerous anti-police rhetoric. It’s getting more and more — it’s very unfair. You have some bad apples. We all know that and those will be taken care of through the system and nobody’s going to be easy on them either.”
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“I thought you could defeat hate. Hate only hides. It only hides. And when someone in authority breathes oxygen under that rock, it legitimizes those folks to come on out, come out from under the rocks.”
Joe Biden, Democratic candidate for president
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Rittenhouse extradited from Lake County to Wisconsin.
Wendy Rittenhouse, in an interview with the Tribune, said she would have tried to stop her teenage son from going to Kenosha with an AR-15 rifle during the chaotic protests, but she didn’t know where he was or what he was doing.
She repeatedly sought to deflect blame for the shootings away from her son and Black. While she voiced anger at the authorities, some politicians and protesters, she expressed little sympathy toward the families of the men her son shot.
“No one should have been there. The protesters should not have been there, also. My son shouldn’t have been there either.”
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One of the teen’s attorneys, L. Lin Wood, thanks actor Ricky Schroeder and My Pillow founder Mike Lindell for “putting us over the top.” Lindell later said he didn’t mean to donate the money for Rittenhouse’s bail, explaining that he intended his $50,000 donation to help Wood overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
During an online hearing, Schroeder rejected calls for a higher bond for Rittenhouse, rebuffing prosecutors who sought consequences against him for failing to tell the courts where he was living as he awaited trial.
Schroeder also said he would neither issue an arrest warrant for the teen nor add $200,000 on top of his $2 million bond, as prosecutors requested. The judge, however, ordered the teen’s lawyer to share his new address with court officials and the sheriff’s office, saying the information would be kept secret.
Huber’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kenosha law enforcement, alleging authorities incited the bloodshed by allowing Rittenhouse and other armed civilians who clashed with protesters to “mete out punishment as they saw fit.”
Grosskreutz, who says he lost 90% of his right bicep in the shooting, filed a lawsuit alleging Kenosha law enforcement essentially deputized Rittenhouse and share blame for his actions that night.
Rittenhouse’s murder trial offered dueling portraits of a shooter.
The prosecution painted Rittenhouse as a “chaos tourist” who arrived in Kenosha amid protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake to impose his own sense of justice. The defense, in response, portrayed him as a selfless, if naive, teenager who was forced to stop people from taking his gun and using it against him.
A Kenosha County jury appeared riveted as prosecutors played a series of videos showing Rittenhouse shooting three men amid chaotic protests.
It marked the first time the panel had seen the videos pieced together to form a cohesive narrative of how the events unfolded in August 2020. Most jurors stopped taking notes, as they leaned toward the screens to watch recordings that have been played millions of times around the world.
In testimony critical to determining the validity of Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim, a professional videographer told jurors that Joseph Rosenbaum had unsuccessfully lunged for the teen’s gun and appeared to be falling toward the ground when he was fatally shot.
“He said ‘(expletive) you,’ and then he tried to grab the weapon,” Daily Caller videographer Richard McGinniss testified.
Sources: Tribune reporting and archives; AP; Antioch Police Department; County of Kenosha District Attorney