By STEPHEN GROVES and SCOTT BAUER
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Peace and calm prevailed on the streets of Kenosha on Thursday after the first relatively quiet night of protests since last weekend’s police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.
The mood of marchers during Wednesday night’s protests in the southeastern Wisconsin city between Milwaukee and Chicago was more somber following the chaos of the previous night, when authorities say a 17-year-old police admirer from a nearby Illinois community killed two demonstrators and wounded a third in wild shootings that were largely caught on cellphone video and posted online.
The attack late Tuesday and the shooting by police Sunday of Blake, a 29-year-old father of six who was left paralyzed from the waist down, made Kenosha the latest focal point in the fight against racial injustice that has gripped the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. In solidarity, Milwaukee Bucks players refused to play their playoff game on Wednesday, temporarily halting the NBA season. Three Major League Baseball games were delayed because players refused to take the field and several NFL teams canceled their Thursday practices.
There were no groups patrolling Kenosha’s streets with long guns Wednesday night as there were during previous evenings of protests over Blake’s shooting. Protesters also stayed away from a courthouse that had been the site of standoffs with law enforcement. Unlike the previous two nights, when dozens of fires were set and businesses were ransacked and destroyed, there was no widespread violence.
Protesters marched past the intersection where two people were killed Tuesday night, stopping to gather around the spot where one person was shot, and to pray and lay flowers. Daijon Spann said he decided to join the demonstration because one of those killed the night before was a friend.
“I couldn’t take it any more,” he said. “I couldn’t just sit there and watch my friend die.”
Authorities identified the two people killed late Tuesday only as a 36-year-old from Kenosha and a 26-year-old from Silver Lake, about 15 miles west of the city. The wounded person, a 36-year-old from West Allis, about 30 miles northwest of Kenosha, was expected to survive, police said.
Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, about 15 miles from Kenosha, was taken into custody on Wednesday in Illinois on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide in shootings late Tuesday.
Rittenhouse, a police aficionado who walked the streets with other civilians armed with long guns, was assigned a public defender in Illinois for a hearing Friday on his transfer to Wisconsin. The public defender’s office had no comment. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
During the chaos of Tuesday night, a male with a semi-automatic rifle can be heard in cellphone footage saying, “I just killed somebody,” while jogging away from where a man had just been fatally shot in the head.
Another clip apparently taken moments later shows what appears to be the same person jogging down a street with a crowd in tow. The man stumbles to the ground is attacked before he starts firing his weapon several times, killing another man and wounding a third.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers authorized the deployment of 500 members of the National Guard to Kenosha, doubling the number of troops in the city of 100,000 midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. The governor’s office said he is working with other states to bring in additional National Guard members and law officers. Authorities also announced a 7 p.m. curfew, though protesters ignored it again Wednesday.
In Washington, the Justice Department said it was sending in more than 200 federal agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The White House said up to 2,000 National Guard troops would be made available. The Justice Department also announced that the U.S. attorney’s office and FBI would conduct a civil rights investigation into the shooting of
Blake, in cooperation with Wisconsin state law enforcement agencies.
While the investigation into the shooting of Blake proceeded on one track, Kenosha police faced questions about their interactions with the gunman the night of the killings.
According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the gunman walk past them and leave the scene with a rifle over his shoulder and his hands in the air as members of the crowd were yelling for him to be arrested because he had shot people.
As for how the gunman managed to slip away, Sheriff David Beth described a chaotic, high-stress scene, with lots of radio traffic and people screaming, chanting and running — conditions he said can cause “tunnel vision” among law officers.
Video taken before the shooting shows police tossing bottled water from an armored vehicle to what appear to be armed civilians walking the streets. And one of them appears to be the gunman.
“We appreciate you being here,” an officer is heard saying to the group over a loudspeaker.
Before the shooting, the conservative website The Daily Caller conducted a video interview with the suspected gunman in front of a boarded-up business.
“So people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business,” the young man said. “And part of my job is to also help people. If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle — because I can protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
Much of Rittenhouse’s Facebook page is devoted to praising law enforcement, with references to Blue Lives Matter, a movement that supports police. He also can be seen holding an assault rifle. In a photograph posted by his mother, he is wearing what appears to be a blue law enforcement uniform as well as the kind of brimmed hat that state troopers wear.
Blake was shot in the back seven times on Sunday as he leaned into his SUV, in which three of his children were seated.
On Wednesday — three days after the shooting — state authorities identified the officer who shot Blake as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department. Sheskey shot Blake while holding onto his shirt after officers first unsuccessfully used a Taser, the Wisconsin Justice Department said. State agents later recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of the vehicle, the department said.
The man who said he made the widely circulated cellphone video of Blake’s shooting has said he heard officers yell, “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” before the gunfire erupted. He said he didn’t see a knife in Blake’s hands.
State authorities did not say Blake threatened anyone with the knife.
On Tuesday, Ben Crump, the lawyer for Blake’s family, said it would “take a miracle” for Blake to walk again. He called for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and for the others involved to lose their jobs.
State officials have announced no charges.