AVOWED ‘BOOGA­LOO BOI’ SAYS HE ROAMED KENOSHA WITH KYLE RIT­TEN­HOUSE BE­FORE SHOOT­INGS

Avowed ‘booga­loo boi’ says he roamed Kenosha with An­ti­och 17-year-old be­fore shoot­ings

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM SCHUBA, STAFF RE­PORTER tschuba@suntimes.com | @TomSchuba

An ad­her­ent to the far-right booga­loo move­ment — whose most ex­treme fol­low­ers are re­port­edly look­ing to spark a civil war — was with Kyle Rit­ten­house last week in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, be­fore the An­ti­och teenager al­legedly opened fire on pro­test­ers, killing two and wound­ing an­other.

Ryan Balch, an Army vet­eran from West Bend, Wis­con­sin, who served in Iraq and Afghanista­n, said he met Rit­ten­house in the leadup to last Tues­day’s shoot­ings and spent much of the day with him. While Balch said Rit­ten­house “had no con­nec­tion” to the loosely or­ga­nized group, he noted that as many as 32 booga­loo ad­her­ents were in Kenosha that day.

Balch, who has used so­cial media to post Nazi pro­pa­ganda and white na­tion­al­ist mes­sag­ing, de­scribed him­self in a se­ries of Face­book mes­sages to the Sun-Times as a “Boog Boi.” Ac­cord­ing to the Anti-Defama­tion League, white su­prem­a­cists, mili­tia mem­bers and other ex­trem­ists use the phrase booga­loo as “short­hand for a fu­ture civil war.”

“Whereas the mili­tia move­ment [and] rad­i­cal gun rights ac­tivists typ­i­cally pro­mote the booga­loo as a war against the gov­ern­ment or lib­er­als, white su­prem­a­cists con­ceive of the booga­loo as a race war or a white revo­lu­tion,” the Anti-Defama­tion League said.

Hate­watch, a project of the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, high­lighted Balch’s pres­ence in Kenosha in an on­line post Sun­day.

Balch con­firmed that the “gen­eral con­sen­sus” among “booga­loo bois” is that a civil war is “im­mi­nent.”

In­di­vid­u­als tied to the booga­loo move­ment are fac­ing ter­ror­ism­re­lated charges in a plot to start a riot dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada, in the wake of the po­lice killing of George Floyd.

And an­other booga­loo loy­al­ist, U.S. Air Force Sgt. Steven Car­rillo, al­legedly shot two Fed­eral Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices of­fi­cers, one fa­tally, as they guarded fed­eral prop­erty amid sim­i­lar protests in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia. Car­rillo, who headed an anti-ter­ror­ism squad in the Air Force, then al­legedly used pipe bombs and a high-pow­ered ri­fle to am­bush sher­iff’s deputies who tracked him to his home near Santa Cruz, leav­ing one dead and two more hurt.

The pres­ence of the “booga­loo bois” in Kenosha came as un­rest gripped the city fol­low­ing the po­lice shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake, al­though Balch said they came in­de­pen­dent of an ap­peal from a group called the Kenosha Guard that re­cruited armed peo­ple to come to the south­east Wis­con­sin city.

Though Balch said he was sep­a­rated from Rit­ten­house and didn’t wit­ness the shoot­ings, his ac­count of­fers a win­dow into the ac­cused killer’s move­ments be­fore the demon­stra­tion turned vi­o­lent. Balch said Rit­ten­house “seemed ap­pro­pri­ately scared” but didn’t ap­pear “fright­ened.”

“Agi­ta­tors did seem to fo­cus on him be­cause he seemed like an eas­ier tar­get than the rest of us,” said Balch.

Rit­ten­house’s at­tor­ney, who couldn’t be reached for com­ment, has said his client was act­ing in self­de­fense. He awaits ex­tra­di­tion on charges of first-de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide, first-de­gree reck­less homi­cide, at­tempted first-de­gree in­ten­tional homi­cide and first-de­gree reck­less en­dan­ger­ment.

In a Face­book post, Balch claimed he and other vig­i­lantes were there to pro­tect and of­fer aid to mem­bers of the pub­lic, in­clud­ing an­tifas­cists and Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­ers. He also claimed that an ex­change between Rit­ten­house and po­lice that was cap­tured in a vi­ral video wasn’t as chummy as it ap­peared: “[T]hey tossed us wa­ter and mock­ingly said they ap­pre­ci­ated what we were do­ing.”

A Kenosha po­lice spokesman didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to ques­tions about the pres­ence of the “booga­loo bois” last week.

While Balch com­plained that some ad­her­ents on the far right “seem to racial­ize the con­flict that seems to be com­ing,” he has used so­cial media to boost white na­tion­al­ists.

Balch’s Twit­ter posts in­clude a link to a video ti­tled “TRUTH WILL TRI­UMPH ADOLF HITLER” and a retweet of a post from white na­tion­al­ist leader Richard Spencer call­ing for ef­forts in North Amer­ica and Europe to “help Mus­lims re­con­nect with their roots and fam­i­lies.” The posts, both from 2017, were in­cluded in the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter post.

In ex­plain­ing his so­cial media pres­ence, Balch claimed he was run­ning a web­site at the time and pos­ing as a mem­ber of the AltRight in or­der to “screen­shot their shenani­gans and make memes out of it.” Balch said he posted the video cel­e­brat­ing Hitler be­cause he “can en­joy a bit of irony.”

Ahead of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s planned visit to Kenosha Tues­day, an­other po­ten­tial flash­point in a sum­mer marked by waves of civil un­rest, Balch said he and other booga­loo ad­her­ents plan to stay away from any pos­si­ble protests.

“It’s gonna be a dog and pony show any­way,” he said of the trip.

An al­leged gun­man was shot and killed by Chicago cops Mon­day night in Pilsen af­ter he al­legedly opened fire on the of­fi­cers, strik­ing a po­lice car.

Hours af­ter the shoot­ing un­folded in the 1300 block of West 19th Street, po­lice Tues­day morn­ing said the sus­pect had been pro­nounced dead.

Of­fi­cers re­sponded at 10:45 p.m. to a call of a “sus­pi­cious per­son” and found five peo­ple on a side­walk, Deputy Chief Daniel O’Shea said Tues­day at the scene.

As the of­fi­cers got out of their ve­hi­cle, shots were fired in their di­rec­tion, strik­ing their ve­hi­cle, he said.

The of­fi­cers re­turned fire, strik­ing one sus­pect in the back of his head, O’Shea said. He was taken to Stroger Hospi­tal in crit­i­cal con­di­tion and was later pro­nounced dead.

His name had not been re­leased by the Cook County med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice, but a GoFundMe page set up by his fam­ily iden­ti­fied him as Miguel Vega, a fa­ther of two chil­dren.

His fam­ily pushed back on the CPD’s ver­sion of events, say­ing, “Neigh­bors and peo­ple who wit­nessed the crime first hand are com­ing for­ward and have con­tra­dict­ing ver­sions as to what re­ally hap­pened.”

Vega’s fam­ily didn’t re­spond to an in­ter­view re­quest Tues­day.

Two peo­ple were ar­rested af­ter the en­counter, but they were re­leased, po­lice said.

Po­lice shared a photo of the al­leged shooter’s hand­gun, which ap­peared to have an ex­tended mag­a­zine.

The of­fi­cers in­volved will be placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive du­ties for 30 days, po­lice said.

ADAM RO­GAN/THE JOUR­NAL TIMES VIA AP

Kyle Rit­ten­house (left) walks with “booga­loo boi” Ryan Balch in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, on Aug. 25.

JER­MAINE NOLEN/SUN-TIMES

A man was killed by Chicago po­lice in a gun­fire ex­change late Mon­day in the 1300 block of West 19th Street in Pilsen.

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