‘I feel I had to protect myself,’ Kyle Rittenhouse said in a jailhouse interview
The 17-year-old charged in the fatal shooting of two men during a protest in Wisconsin has spoken out in a jailhouse interview.
‘I feel I had to protect myself,’ Kyle Rittenhouse told the Washington Post in an interview published on Thursday. ‘I would have died that night if I didn’t.’
Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, is also charged in the wounding of a third person on August 25 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a demonstration to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man.
He told the Post that he had purchased the AR-15-style gun with money from a government stimulus check, using a friend to make the purchase because he is too young to buy a firearm.
The money came through after he had been furloughed from his job as a YMCA lifeguard due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rittenhouse said.
Rittenhouse (left on August 25) said that he purchased the gun using money from a government stimulus check, giving the money to an adult friend to buy the rifle
Wisconsin state law does allow minors to shoot target practice under adult supervision, but they are prohibited from owning or publicly carrying firearms.
Dominic Black, an 18-year-old friend of Rittenhouse, previously told authorities that he purchased the weapon at a hardware store in Wisconsin and kept it for Rittenhouse at his own home.
Earlier this month, a court commissioner set Black’s bail at $2,500 on felony charges that he supplied a dangerous weapon to a minor, causing death.
According to police reports, Black told investigators that Rittenhouse’s mother Wendy Rittenhouse had been planning to apply for a firearm owner’s identification card in Illinois so they could legally keep the weapon in Antioch.
Wendy Rittenhouse told media that she sees nothing wrong with teenagers possessing firearms.
Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two people and injuring another during demonstrations on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is seen in court last month
In the new interview, Kyle Rittenhouse said he had been providing first aid to injured demonstrators on the night of the shooting.
Kyle Rittenhouse, at 17, was not legally allowed to carry a gun in Wisconsin
‘Ever since I was little, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a police officer, or a firefighter, or a paramedic,’ he said.
‘I do consider myself patriotic, I love our country,’ Rittenhouse said.
Earlier on the day of the shootings, Rittenhouse had joined a volunteer group to remove graffiti from a high school in Kenosha.
‘I wasn’t mad but I was disappointed that they spray painted a school,’ Rittenhouse said. ‘Helping the community I worked for, cleaning it, made me feel like I was having a positive impact on the community.’
Later that evening, a mutual friend asked Black and Rittenhouse for help protecting a friend’s car dealership, which had been targeted in previous nights of protests and looting.
‘I was going into a place where people had guns and God forbid somebody brought a gun to me and decided to shoot me,’ Rittenhouse said, explaining his decision to bring the rifle.
Rittenhouse, seen lying on his back on the ground, shot and killed Kenosha protesters
‘I wanted to be protected, which I ended up having to protect myself,’ he added. Rittenhouse said he’d expected to watch over the business and provide minor first aid to any injured demonstrators, bringing along his homemade first aid kit.
Rittenhouse said that he did not regret his decision to bring a gun, saying ‘I would have died that night if I didn’t.’
Rittenhouse’s mother has said he felt the need to protect businesses in Kenosha from the looting that erupted after Blake was shot seven times in the back two nights earlier. Blake’s family says he is paralyzed from the waist down.
‘It´s a tragedy what happened to Mr. Blake. It is,’ Wendy Rittenhouse told the Chicago Tribune. ‘But my son and everybody else should not have been in Kenosha.’
‘The police should have helped the businesses out instead of having a 17-year-old kid helping him,’ she said. ‘The police should have been involved with these people that lost their businesses. They should have stepped up.’
She stressed that she understands the pressure the police are under and said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, should have deployed reinforcements.
President Donald Trump has suggested the shootings may have been justified because it appeared Kyle Rittenhouse was trying to fend off violent attackers.
The case has become a political flashpoint, with Rittenhouse drawing support from conservatives and gun rights groups, but condemnation from liberals.
Videos show armed civilians arriving in Kenosha after a local militia group, the Kenosha Guard, put out a call to arms on Facebook. Police didn’t stop them as they walked down the street and, in one video, officers handed them bottles of water.
In another video, Kyle Rittenhouse, armed with an assault rifle, explained to a reporter that he was protecting a business from looting.
His mother told the Tribune he doesn’t belong to the Kenosha Guard or any militia group and prosecutors also have not suggested any connection between her son and militias.
Kyle Rittenhouse is being held in juvenile detention in Kenosha in lieu of $2 million bail.