A spokesperson from Donald Trump‘s 2020 presidential campaign issued a statement distancing the president from the Kenosha shooter after images surfaced online of Kyle Rittenhouse in the front row at a Trump rally just months prior to the shooting.
“President Trump has repeatedly and consistently condemned all forms of violence and believes we must protect all Americans from chaos and lawlessness. This individual had nothing to do with our campaign and we fully support our fantastic law enforcement for their swift action in this case,” Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesperson, said to Buzzfeed News.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, has been charged with shooting and killing two demonstrators and injuring another at a protest for 29-year-old Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night. Blake was shot in the back seven times and is now paralyzed from the waist down.
After the shooting, information about Rittenhouse began to spread online. His social media profiles feature posts consumed with expressing support for law enforcement and for Donald Trump. “Blue Lives Matter,” and “Trump 2020” are found in Rittenhouse’s TikTok bio.
On Jan. 30, Rittenhouse attended a Trump rally in De Moines, Iowa, and was captured on camera standing in the front row of the crowd. Rittenhouse, who lives in Antioch, Illinois, drove 20 miles to confront protesters in Kenosha.
During an interview that took place on the night of the protests, but before the shootings, Rittenhouse told a journalist it is his job to protect people.
“Part of my job also is to protect people. If someone is hurt, I’m running into harm’s way,” he said. Video footage shows that Rittenhouse was heavily armed at the demonstration.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth associated Rittenhouse with a group of armed vigilantes that approached him to request that they be deputized so they could help law enforcement during the protest.
“I think they were part of this group that wanted me to deputize them,” he said of the shooter.
The Grayslake Police Department in Illinois says Rittenhouse is former public safety cadet.
Rittenhouse fraternized with police officers on the night of the shooting. A video clip shows the teen speaking to an officer who offered him water.
Immediately after the shooting, a witness is heard saying “that dude just shot them” in reference to Rittenhouse, who is standing with his hands raised in the air. Instead of apprehending Rittenhouse, officers drove straight past him toward the crowd of protesters.
Sheriff Beth did not offer an explanation as to why Rittenhouse was not detained, but said officers have “tunnel vision” during loud situations. He was arrested on Wednesday at his mother’s home in Antioch. Court documents say Rittenhouse “fled the state of Wisconsin with the intent to avoid prosecution for that offense.”
On social media, people drew comparisons between authorities’ treatment of the armed Rittenhouse and of unarmed Black men and boys.
Kenosha County prosecutors have charged Rittenhouse with first-degree reckless homicide, first degree intentional homicide, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety. He has also been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and possession of a dangerous weapon while under 18
Authorities say Rittenhouse shot to death a 26-year-old resident of Silver Lake, Wisconsin, Anthony Huber, and a 36-year-old from Kenosha, Joseph Rosenbaum. Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, also was injured in the shooting but is expected to survive.