KENOSHA, Wis — An Illinois teenager who is charged with shooting three people, including two fatally, during a Wisconsin protest over police brutality said he used pandemic relief funds to pay for the assault-style rifle that a friend purchased for him.
Kyle Rittenhouse spoke to The Washington Post by phone from a juvenile detention facility on the condition that the newspaper not ask about the shooting or events immediately preceding it. He told the newspaper that he was carrying the gun that night to protect himself.
“I got my $1,200 from the coronavirus Illinois unemployment because I was on furlough from YMCA,” he told the Post. “And I got my first unemployment check so I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll use this to buy it.’”
Rittenhouse was 17 and couldn’t legally buy the gun, so his friend, Dominick Black, bought it for him. The weapon was stored at Black’s stepfather’s house in Kenosha, Wisconsin, until Black and Rittenhouse each took rifles downtown on Aug. 25, according to police records. Late that night, police said Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz.
Rittenhouse is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, attempted homicide, reckless homicide, recklessly endangering safety and illegal possession of a firearm. His attorneys say Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense.
Rosenbaum's fiancee, Kariann Swart, told the Post that Rosenbaum had been released from a psychiatric hospital earlier that day, and she told him to stay away from downtown.
Swart said Rosenbaum had been homeless — the couple lived in a tent for seven months before moving into a motel. In July, Rosenbaum was arrested for domestic violence and ordered to stay away from Swart. But days later, he contacted her, then overdosed and was in a hospital's intensive care unit for five days, Swart said.
When he regained consciousness, he was jailed for three weeks for violating the no-contact order, then ultimately sent to Aurora Psychiatric Hospital outside of Milwaukee. Swart told the Post he left the hospital that morning.
“He really just wanted to um, you know, stay on his medication, stay on the right path,” she said.
Swart said Rosenbaum was dropped off in Kenosha and tried to get medication from a Walgreens, but it was closed. He then went to talk to Swart, who would not let him stay with her, but warned him not to go downtown due to ongoing protests after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, who was Black, seven times in the back.
Swart said she doesn't believe Rittenhouse acted in self defense, but she also said Rosenbaum shouldn't have been downtown.
“Joe, you shouldn't have been down there,” she said, adding, “I go between being angry to just being sad — but mostly just sad.”
Black, the 19-year-old who bought the gun for Rittenhouse, is charged in Kenosha County Circuit Court with two counts of intentionally providing a dangerous weapon to a minor, resulting in death. A court commissioner decided Thursday that there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed and Black will stand trial.
A Kenosha detective testified that Black told him during an interview about how he purchased the assault-style rifle at a Ladysmith hardware store after getting some money from Rittenhouse, the Journal Sentinel reported. Black's attorney, Robert Keller, argued for the charges to be dismissed or at least reduced to a single count, a motion Keating denied.