Kyle Rit­ten­house of An­ti­och de­scribed as high school dropout; on­line posts show sup­port for Blue Lives Mat­ter, pic­tures with guns

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY TOM SCHUBA AND MADELINE KEN­NEY Staff Re­porters

Kyle Rit­ten­house built an iden­tity around his un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for the cops.

But af­ter the 17-year-old from far north sub­ur­ban An­ti­och was ac­cused of shoot­ing two peo­ple to death Tues­day night and wound­ing an­other amid the on­go­ing unrest in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, he’s found him­self firmly on the other end of the law.

An­ti­och po­lice re­ported Wed­nes­day that Rit­ten­house was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of first-de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide af­ter he allegedly opened fire dur­ing a protest that erupted in the wake of the po­lice shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake. Rit­ten­house re­mains held in Lake County await­ing an ex­tra­di­tion hear­ing Fri­day.

Mean­while, a por­trait has emerged of a high school dropout who used so­cial me­dia to back the pro-po­lice Blue Lives Mat­ter move­ment and flash a high-pow­ered weapon — one that looks sim­i­lar to the one he was allegedly seen fir­ing in a video of the in­ci­dent in Kenosha.

The header of Rit­ten­house’s Face­book page, which has been taken off­line, showed him pos­ing in two sep­a­rate pho­tos with a rifle. His pro­file pic­ture in­cluded a ban­ner with a clear mes­sage: “Duty. Honor. Courage. Blue Lives Mat­ter.”

That coun­ter­move­ment emerged as Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­ers sought to hold ac­count­able of­fi­cers ac­cused of bru­tal­ity fol­low­ing high­pro­file po­lice killings. Rit­ten­house’s Face­book ac­count also in­cluded memo­ri­als to Sa­muel Jimenez, a Chicago cop killed dur­ing a mass shoot­ing at Mercy Hos­pi­tal in 2018, and McHenry County Deputy Sher­iff Ja­cob Kelt­ner, who was shot to death serv­ing a war­rant in Rock­ford last year.

A photo of the baby-faced al­leged killer posted to an­other Face­book page be­long­ing to his mother shows Rit­ten­house clad in a blue cadet uni­form adorned with a badge. WBEZ re­ported Wed­nes­day that he par­tic­i­pated in a “pub­lic safety cadet pro­gram” in the far north­ern sub­urbs.

Rit­ten­house also sup­ported Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, whose re­elec­tion cam­paign has cen­tered around a “law and or­der” agenda. Buz­zfeed News re­ported that Rit­ten­house even at­tended Trump’s Jan. 30 rally in Des Moines, Iowa, post­ing video of the event from his front row seat.

Be­fore the al­leged shoot­ing that took place shortly be­fore mid­night, Rit­ten­house was pho­tographed help­ing clean the ex­te­rior of Reuther Cen­tral High School on Tues­day in Kenosha.

Rit­ten­house later told a reporter he had been “pep­per-sprayed” and said he and the other vig­i­lantes weren’t us­ing “non-lethal” am­mu­ni­tion. In an­other video cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia, he ex­plained his mo­tive for be­ing there.

“Peo­ple are get­ting in­jured, and our job is to pro­tect this busi­ness. And part of my job is to also help peo­ple,” he said. “If there’s some­body hurt, I’m run­ning into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle be­cause I need to pro­tect my­self, ob­vi­ously.”

Late Wed­nes­day, the YMCA of Metro Chicago con­firmed that Rit­ten­house is a part-time em­ployee who has been on fur­lough since March. The state­ment did not in­di­cate where he worked or what he did.

“He will not be re­turn­ing to the YMCA,” the YMCA said in a state­ment.

On Wed­nes­day, res­i­dents of Rit­ten­house’s home­town de­scribed him as a mid­dling ado­les­cent.

Two peo­ple told the Sun-Times he dropped out of Lakes Com­mu­nity High School in Lake Villa. And an­other woman who lives in Rit­ten­house’s apart­ment com­plex said a friend worked with him at a Cul­ver’s restau­rant.

The woman said she didn’t know him per­son­ally but was shocked when she saw the news.

“There’s a lot of racists in this world and we’re com­ing to a World War III to be hon­est,” said the woman, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied. “There’s so much hate in this world.”

She de­scribed the apart­ment com­plex com­mu­nity as friendly.

“We all get along, we have ev­ery race here,” she said. “It’s not just white … so we all get along, there has never been a prob­lem out here.”

Still, the shoot­ings in Kenosha have sparked out­rage among the com­mu­nity. Many An­ti­och res­i­dents said they’re pre­par­ing for a long night of protests.

On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, An­ti­och po­lice wrote on Face­book that re­cent so­cial me­dia posts “may im­ply that our com­mu­nity may ex­pe­ri­ence so­cial unrest.”

“Since be­com­ing aware of this in­for­ma­tion, the po­lice de­part­ment has de­voted its full at­ten­tion to eval­u­at­ing ev­ery one of these posts in an at­tempt to de­ter­mine their level of va­lid­ity and cred­i­bil­ity,” the post reads.

An­ti­och Mayor Lawrence Han­son ul­ti­mately set a cur­few from 8 p.m. un­til 7 a.m. un­til fur­ther no­tice.

Af­ter board­ing up their win­dows Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, down­town busi­ness own­ers locked up early in prepa­ra­tion. They re­moved all planters and garbage cans, too.

The woman from Rit­ten­house’s com­plex de­cided to flee the city when she saw so­cial me­dia posts about po­ten­tial vi­o­lence in her neigh­bor­hood. She packed bags for her and her two chil­dren and plans to stay in a ho­tel un­til Mon­day.

“I’m get­ting out for safety,” she said. “It’s scary. It is scary. I’m ter­ri­fied.”

“Hey, so am I, too,” her child chimed in from the back­seat of the car.

A man who lives in a nearby res­i­den­tial area said he wasn’t too wor­ried about the re­ports. How­ever, po­lice of­fi­cers were seen pa­trolling near Rit­ten­house’s apart­ment.

“I feel like if it came down here, and they were ri­ot­ing in this part peo­ple would prob­a­bly just start shoot­ing them,” said Bill, who wouldn’t give his last name. “If [ri­ot­ing] started hap­pen­ing here there would prob­a­bly be gun­shots.”


Kyle Rit­ten­house helps clean the ex­te­rior of Reuther Cen­tral High School on Tues­day morn­ing in Kenosha. Hours later, he allegedly shot three pro­test­ers, two of them fa­tally.


Kyle Rit­ten­house poses with a long gun in a Face­book pro­file pic­ture with a mes­sage sup­port­ing the Blue Lives Mat­ter move­ment.

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