The videos that spread rapidly across social media Tuesday evening all showed a similar figure: a white man of medium build, a backward tan cap, an olive green T-shirt, dark pants, blue gloves, a rifle and a side bag.
“I’m Kyle, by the way,” the man says in one video.
That man now appears to be Kyle Rittenhouse, according to numerous videos from Tuesday night posted online and a Facebook account with pictures that match the man in the video. On Wednesday, Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois, was arrested and faces a warrant alleging first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the shooting deaths of two people during protests over the shooting by police of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The videos, recorded Tuesday night by journalists and people on the streets of Kenosha, appeared to show Rittenhouse before the shootings in which he was arrested. Other videos appeared to have captured at least some of the violence he is accused of.
The videos are an incomplete account of the incident, but they do offer some snapshots of the events as they unfolded. In one video, the man runs from a group of people while talking on a cellphone. “I just killed somebody,” he seems to say. In another, more graphic, video, the man runs down a street while being chased. He falls and begins to shoot, and one person collapses nearby.
Two people died and one person was injured in the shootings during Tuesday night’s protests in Kenosha, which formed after police shot Blake. Like many protesters in recent months, people who had turned out to demand police reform were met by armed pro-police counteractivists, many of whom have said they sought to stop the destruction of property.
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Many of those scenes have turned violent, as Tuesday night in Kenosha did.
At least four videos of the man who appears to be Rittenhouse had been uploaded to the internet as of Wednesday afternoon. In one, he is interviewed by a journalist for the conservative news website The Daily Caller, in which he spoke about why he was on the street.
“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 have to protect myself, obviously, but I also have my med kit.”
It was not clear whether Rittenhouse had any connection to The Kenosha Guard, a self-identified local militia that had set up an event on Facebook calling for people to take weapons into the streets. According to the group’s Facebook page, the militia asked: “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend [our] City tonight from the evil thugs? No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the City to burn tonight!”
Numerous videos from the streets of Kenosha on Tuesday evening showed groups of armed white men in military-style gear standing outside businesses in the city, and they recorded confrontations between militia members and protesters.
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which tracks online extremism, issued a report Wednesday detailing the calls for armed people to go to Kenosha.
“The seeds of potential violence were planted over the course of the day leading up it,” through posts in Facebook groups and on Reddit boards, which “encouraged militiamen and other armed individuals to head to Kenosha, ostensibly to protect local businesses from protesters,” the report said.
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Rittenhouse’s online footprint shows strong support for law enforcement. A Facebook page in his name with pictures that match the person who identified himself as Kyle included a variety of pro-police content that has become common in conservative circles, including support for “Blue Lives Matter.” Rittenhouse posted numerous photos of himself carrying long guns, along with several photos of the Blue Lives Matter signature flag, and he circled his profile photo with pro-police borders.
Rittenhouse also appeared to have participated in a youth police training program. A photo of a youth who appears to be Rittenhouse in a uniform was posted in 2017 on the Public Safety Cadets page of the Lindenhurst, Grayslake, Hainesville Police Department, with the caption, “Oh hey Kyle!”
The police department had removed or made private the Facebook page where the post had appeared Wednesday, along with its public webpage, and it did not respond to a request for comment. The original post was viewed through Google’s web cache.
Rittenhouse also seems to have posted videos to several TikTok accounts. One account, with a bio that read “Trump 2020, and BLUE LIVES MATTER,” featured several videos of Rittenhouse shooting guns. A video posted from a second associated account was taken at a Trump rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 30. As BuzzFeed News first reported, news video of the event appears to show Rittenhouse seated near the front.
Mohammed Syed, Shamar Walters and Caitlin Fichtel