In a passionate response during a press conference Thursday, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes questioned how a teenage gunman accused of fatally shooting two people in Kenosha was able to walk by police while armed and travel to his Illinois home before his ultimate arrest.
Underscoring national concerns about racial injustice in policing, Barnes pointed out the disparity between officers' apparent treatment of the armed teen following a fatal shooting and the treatment of Jacob Blake, who was shot at least seven times in the back by an officer.
"The guy's from out of town," Barnes said. "So think about how ridiculous that is. Who is he accountable to? Nobody. And for him to even be able to shoot somebody and still walk away from the scene. I mean, they talked about finding a knife inside of the car, not even on Jacob Blake's person, but this guy's carrying a long gun and kills somebody just walking freely, was able to get back home to Illinois then we've got a much bigger problem on our hands."
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, was arrested and charged in connection with the shooting, which took place amid turmoil after a Kenosha police officer shot Blake Sunday, potentially paralyzing him.
Rittenhouse faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, among others, following the shooting. The teen was taken into custody in Lake County, Illinois, Wednesday and is scheduled for an extradition hearing on Friday.
Social media footage surfaced surrounding the late-night fatal shooting during unrest. Witness accounts and video indicate the gunman first shot someone at a car lot just before midnight, but details on what sparked that shooting weren't immediately clear.
The alleged gunman then jogged away, fell in the street, and opened fire again as members of the crowd closed in on him, some appearing to kick and grab at his weapon. 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.
When asked why the gunman was not arrested in the moment, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said he couldn't say for certain, but noted the chaos surrounding officers that night.
"I've been in a shooting before and in situations that are high stress you have such an incredible tunnel vision you have no idea what outside right here," he said.
Barnes also discouraged vigilante groups from going into Kenosha streets armed during unrest. While it's not clear if Rittenhouse was acting as part of such groups, there were several armed citizens on Kenosha streets the night of the shooting.
"That's not normal behavior," Barnes said. "These people aren't out here as auxiliary officers. Police have all the support they need from the National Guard so if in fact that is the case that this sort of person is being celebrate as a vigilante as a militiaman then that's ridiculous and speaks to a much larger problem and it is completely discouraged. it's more than discouraged. that should never happen.... that is something that is completely horrifying.
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.”
Video posted to social media later showed shots ringing out in a car lot before a man is discovered with a gunshot wound to the head. In that video, a person appearing to be Rittenhouse can be seen on a phone saying "I just killed somebody" as he jogs away. Details on the moments leading up to that shooting remain unclear.
In a separate scene, a group of protesters can be heard following someone down a street while shouting "Why'd you shoot him?"
Photos: Images Show Traumatic Scene as Gunfire Erupts in Kenosha During Another Night of Unrest
Moments after, video taken by a photographer at a nearby scene showed an armed Rittenhouse sitting on the ground, opening fire at a crowd around him, shooting another man in the arm. A third man is seen lying on the ground before authorities arrive and carry him away.
Photos that also captured the moments leading up to the second shooting scene appeared to show a man kicking Rittenhouse before another man with a skateboard appears to grab at the teen's weapon. The man with the skateboard appears to be the same one lying on the ground not moving in the video.
A witness, Julio Rosas, 24, said that when the gunman stumbled, "two people jumped onto him and there was a struggle for control of his rifle. At that point during the struggle, he just began to fire multiple rounds, and that dispersed people near him.”
“The rifle was being jerked around in all directions while it was being fired,” Rosas said.
The two people killed were identified only as a 26-year-old Silver Lake, Wisconsin, resident and a 36-year-old from Kenosha. The wounded person, a 36-year-old from West Allis, Wisconsin, was expected to survive, police said.
Additional photos from the scene Tuesday night showed what appeared to be multiple citizens armed with weapons as the unrest unfolded. Some stood outside area businesses and others were seen in the streets.
In Wisconsin, it is legal for people 18 and over to openly carry a gun without a license.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth confirmed there were so-called vigilantes or self-proclaimed militia groups on the streets, one of which even asked him to deputize them. It's unclear if Rittenhouse was connected to that group.
"There's no way. There's no way I would deputize people," he said.
But 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.
Beth argued that "our deputies would have tossed a water to anybody."
A group calling itself the "Kenosha Guard" had earlier posted a call on Facebook asking "Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend [our] City tonight from the evil thugs?"
The same group released a statement Wednesday saying it did not know if Rittenhouse was responding to their call.
"We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia's call to arms," the group wrote on Facebook. "Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgement."
Facebook confirmed Wednesday that it took down the group's page for violating its policy against militia organizations. The company said it also is in the process of removing other accounts and material tied to the shootings that violate its policies, such as for glorifying violence, and it is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the matter.
Facebook also removed Rittenhouse's accounts from Facebook and Instagram.
The company said it had not found evidence on Facebook that suggests the suspected shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or was invited on its Event Page to go to the protests.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers acknowledged that the scenes present constitutional issues in Wisconsin.
"When the Second Amendment butts up against the First Amendment my recommendation is simple: stay home," he said.