In the first public comments since his arrest, Kyle Rittenhouse—the 17-year-old charged with fatally shooting two protesters and injuring a third amid summer unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin—told The Washington Post that he does not regret having an assault-style rifle on his person on the night of Aug. 25.

Key Facts

Rittenhouse faces two felony counts of intentional homicide for the deaths of 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and 26-year-old Anthony Huber, a felony count of attempted homicide for the non-fatal shooting of Gaige P. Grosskreutz, as well as two felony counts and a misdemeanor for endangering the safety of others and possessing a weapon as a minor. 

Speaking on the phone from the juvenile detention center where he is being held, Rittenhouse insists he needed a gun, saying: “I would’ve died that night if I didn’t.” 

“God forbid somebody… decided to shoot me,” said Rittenhouse, adding, “I ended up having to protect myself.”

Rittenhouse, who told the Post he is not part of any militia group, said he was in Kenosha because he wanted to protect the community where he worked as a lifeguard. 

Key Background 

Prior to the shootings, Rittenhouse had spent the day working his lifeguarding job in Kenosha, and then volunteered to clean graffiti at a local school and protect a car dealership that had been burned the night before, where he says he met other armed men and women. In the heart of the violence, video footage shows Rittenhouse fatally shooting Rosenbaum, who chased the teenager through the street and threw a plastic bag at him, and then Huber, a protester who hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard when he fell down. Rittenhouse’s case has become a rallying point among many conservatives, who argue that the teenager acted in self-defense while protecting the city from anarchists. His lawyers say he will plead not guilty to all counts. “Who attacked my client first?” asked Rittenhouse’s defense attorney at the bail hearing, blaming Rosenbaum and “rioters with ill intent in their heart.” Rosenbaum had been discharged that day from a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt. He suffered from bipolar disorder and spent the majority of his adult life in jail for sexual conduct with children when he was 18. 

Crucial Quote 

“[Rittenhouse] was an active shooter, and my son tried to stop him,” Huber’s father John said at Rittenhouse’s November bail hearing. “My son was a hero … and anyone else who says something else, they are dead wrong.” 

Surprising Fact 

Rittenhouse told The Washington Post that his friend Dominic Black purchased the gun for him with stimulus money Rittenhouse received from the federal government.

Further Reading

“Kenosha: How two men’s paths crossed in an encounter that has divided the nation” (The Washington Post) 

“Kyle Rittenhouse’s Mother Says Her Son Shouldn’t Have Been In Kenosha” (Forbes) 

“Kenosha Shooter Kyle Rittenhouse Held On $2 Million Bail” (Forbes)

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