'I feel I had to protect myself': Rittenhouse offers no regrets in first public comments

  • Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, said he has no regrets about arming himself and wading into violent protests this summer after the police shooting of an unarmed Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

    Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, said he has no regrets about arming himself and wading into violent protests this summer after the police shooting of an unarmed Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Adam Rogan/The Journal Times via AP, File

  • Kyle Rittenhouse sits while listening during an extradition hearing in Lake County court last month. Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, was extradited to Wisconsin, where he awaits trial on charges stemming from the killings of two men during Aug. 25 protests in Kenosha.

    Kyle Rittenhouse sits while listening during an extradition hearing in Lake County court last month. Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, was extradited to Wisconsin, where he awaits trial on charges stemming from the killings of two men during Aug. 25 protests in Kenosha. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, Pool

 
Posted11/20/2020 5:00 AM

Kyle Rittenhouse, the Antioch teen accused of killing two men and wounding another during violent demonstrations this summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, told The Washington Post he has no regrets about arming himself with an assault-style rifle and wading into the chaotic protests.

"I feel I had to protect myself," Rittenhouse said in a jailhouse interview with the Post, his first public comments since the Aug. 25 killings. "I would've died that night if I didn't."

 

Rittenhouse's interview was published Thursday as part of a Post investigation into the events that led the 17-year-old into a deadly confrontation with Joseph Rosenbaum, a Kenosha man with a history of mental illness and criminal convictions.

Authorities say Rittenhouse killed Rosenbaum, 36, and then shot two more protesters, one fatally, who chased him. He now faces charges including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

As a condition of the phone interview from the juvenile detention center where Rittenhouse was being held, the Post agreed not to ask him about the shootings or the events immediately preceding them.

Rittenhouse told the Post he traveled to Kenosha the day before the shooting to visit a friend, just as initially peaceful protests over the police shooting of an unarmed Black man were turning violent. The next day, he said, he went into downtown Kenosha to help clean up businesses that had been burned and damaged and clean graffiti from a vandalized school.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It made me feel like I was making a positive impact on the community," he said.

Rittenhouse describes himself as patriotic and said he grew up wanting to be a police officer or firefighter/paramedic. His sister told the Post he supported peaceful protests but called rioters "monsters."

Rittenhouse returned to downtown Kenosha later that night armed with an AR-15 rifle and carrying a medical kit. He told the Post he intended to protect a used car business that had been damaged the night before and provide medical assistance to anyone who needed it.

Although there were many other armed civilians doing the same, some as part of organized efforts, Rittenhouse said he was not part of any group.

"I was going into a place where people had guns and God forbid somebody brought a gun to me and decided to shoot me, like I, like I wanted to be protected, which I ended up having to protect myself," he said.

Rittenhouse told the Post he had a friend, Dominick Black, buy the AR-15 for him in the spring, with money Rittenhouse received from a government stimulus check.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I got my $1,200 from the coronavirus Illinois unemployment, because I was on furlough from the YMCA," he said. "And I got my first unemployment check, so I was like, 'Oh, I'll use this to buy it.'"

Because he could not own a rifle or carry it in public, Rittenhouse said he kept the AR-15 at the home of Black's stepfather in Wisconsin. Black, 19, faces two counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to a person under age 18, causing death.

Rittenhouse, meanwhile, was extradited to Wisconsin late last month and is awaiting trial on charges that could put him in prison for life. He didn't address the charges in his interview, but his mother told the Post her son should be at home, not behind bars.

"When I saw pieces of video (of the shooting), that's self-defense and he needs to come home to his family," Wendy Rittenhouse said.

Reason for thanks

A Roselle business, the DuPage County sheriff and nonprofit organizations are giving away 1,000 turkeys plus Thanksgiving dinner sides this week.

Electri-Flex donated the turkeys and foil roasting pans. Organizer also are giving away 500 boxes of stuffing donated by a county board member, 3,000 cans of corn, 1,000 cans of cranberry sauce, plus potatoes, vegetables and desserts.

From left, DuPage County Undersheriff Edmond Moore, county board member Jim Zay and Sheriff James Mendrick took part in preparing 1,000 Thanksgiving meals for families in need.
From left, DuPage County Undersheriff Edmond Moore, county board member Jim Zay and Sheriff James Mendrick took part in preparing 1,000 Thanksgiving meals for families in need. - Courtesy of DuPage County Sheriff's Office

Families identified by charities and food pantries in Bloomingdale, Addison and Wayne townships are among the beneficiaries. And on Saturday, many meals will be distributed as part of the sheriff's biweekly Meals for Seniors event, co-hosted with the DuPage County Senior Citizens Council.

"We're going through some extremely hard times right now, everywhere. I'm glad we're in a position to help so many families during a holiday season when they would have had nothing," Sheriff James Mendrick said. "Public safety is changing its role as the needs of the people change."

Idleburg joins state panel

The board that oversees the training of law enforcement officers across Illinois added a suburban voice this week with the appointment of Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

John Idleburg, Lake County sheriff
John Idleburg, Lake County sheriff

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board is responsible for establishing standards for the hiring and training of law enforcement personnel. Other suburban reps include Highland Park City Manager Ghida Neukirch, McHenry County Undersheriff Ricardo Pagán and Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds.

"It is an honor to represent the Lake County community at this level," Idleburg said in an announcement of the appointment. "I, along with my staff, have been working diligently to ensure our employees are skillfully trained and our operational policies represent the community's expectations. I look forward to sharing the successful implementations we have made at the Lake County Sheriff's Office with the board."

How not to act in court

File this under things not to do in front of a judge: A man in Kane County bond call Thursday blew his chance to be released without bail after he walked out in the middle of his Zoom hearing to use the toilet in his cell.

When he returned and the hearing resumed, the man said "Yada, yada, yada, c'mon" to Judge Michael Noland.

The man is locked up on a charge of aggravated battery to a peace officer, accused of kicking a police officer and threatening to bite off an officer's nose.

"There just seems to be a certain irreverence (the defendant) seems to be levying toward authority, and minimal authority at that. And he seems to not really be interested in the business we have at hand here," Judge Michael Noland said, setting bail at $25,000.

• Got a question, comment or a tip? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.