2 People Shot to Death During Protest Over Kenosha Shooting
By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER and SCOTT BAUER
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Two people were shot to death during another night of Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha in a possible vigilante attack carried out by a young white man who was caught on cellphone video opening fire in the middle of the street with a semi-automatic rifle.
“I just killed somebody,” he could be heard saying at one point Tuesday night.
Sheriff David Beth said that investigators had reviewed footage and that he was confident a suspect would be arrested soon.
The gunfire erupted just before midnight, during the third straight night of unrest in Kenosha over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.
One victim was shot in the head and the other in the chest, the sheriff told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A third person suffered gunshot wounds not believed to be life-threatening.
According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the young man responsible for the shootings walk past them with a rifle over his shoulder as members of the crowd were yelling for him to be arrested because he had shot people.
The sheriff told the Journal Sentinel that armed people had been patrolling the city’s streets in recent nights, but he did not know if the gunman was among them.
“They’re a militia,” Beth said. “They’re like a vigilante group.”
The FBI said it is assisting in the case.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, said in an interview with the news program “Democracy Now!” that the shootings were not surprising and that white militias have been ignored for too long.
“How many times across this country do you see armed gunmen, protesting, walking into state Capitols, and everybody just thinks it’s OK?” Barnes said. “People treat that like it’s some kind of normal activity that people are walking around with assault rifles.”
In one cellphone video of the night’s events, shots can be heard and the young man with a rifle is on the phone and appears to say, “I just killed somebody” before he runs away. People are then shown tending to a white man who appears to have been shot in the head.
In another video posted online, the same young man with a rifle is jogging down the middle of a street as a crowd and some police officers follow him. Someone in the crowd can be heard asking, “What did he do?” and another person responds that the man had shot someone.
The man with the gun stumbles and falls, and as he is approached by people in the crowd, he fires three or four shots from a seated position, hitting at least two people, including one who falls over and another who stumbles away to cries of “Medic! Medic!”
A witness, Julio Rosas, 24, said that when the gunman stumbled, “two people jumped onto him and there was a struggle for control of his rifle. At that point during the struggle, he just began to fire multiple rounds and that dispersed people near him.”
“The rifle was being jerked around in all directions while it was being fired,” Rosas said.
In the cellphone footage, as the crowd scatters, the gunman stands up and continues walking down the street as police cars arrive. The man puts up his hands and walks toward the squad cars, with someone in the crowd yelling at police that the man had just shot someone, but several of the cars drive past him toward the people who had been shot.
Protester Devin Scott told the Chicago Tribune that he witnessed one of the shootings.
“We were all chanting ‘Black lives matter’ at the gas station and then we heard, boom, boom, and I told my friend, `‘That’s not fireworks,’” said Scott, 19. “And then this guy with this huge gun runs by us in the middle of the street and people are yelling, ‘He shot someone! He shot someone!’ And everyone is trying to fight the guy, chasing him and then he started shooting again.”
Scott said he cradled a lifeless victim in his arms, and a woman started performing CPR, but “I don’t think he made it.”
Sam Dirks, 22, from Milwaukee, said he saw the suspected gunman several times throughout the night. Dirks said that when he first saw the young man, he was yelling at some of the protesters.
“He was definitely very agitated. He was pacing around, just pointing his gun in general. Not necessarily at anyone specifically,” Dirks said.
In Wisconsin, it is legal for people 18 and over to openly carry a gun, with no license required.
In other widely circulating video, police can be seen tossing bottled water from an armored vehicle to what appear to be armed civilians walking the streets. One of the civilians appears to be the gunman who later shot protesters.
“We appreciate you being here,” an officer is heard saying to the group over a loudspeaker.
At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Ben Crump, the lawyer for Blake’s family, said it would “take a miracle” for the 29-year-old Blake to walk again. He called for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and for the others involved to lose their jobs.
Blake was shot, apparently in the back, on Sunday as he leaned into his SUV, three of his children seated inside.
Kenosha police have said little about what happened other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute. They have not said why the officers opened fire or whether Blake was armed, and they have not disclosed the race of three officers on the scene.
The shooting was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests in the U.S. three months after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer touched off a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice.
Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, said police shot his son “seven times, seven times, like he didn’t matter.”
“But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters,” he said.
During the latest round of unrest on Tuesday, police fired tear gas for the third straight night to disperse protesters outside Kenosha’s courthouse, where some shook a protective fence and threw water bottles and fireworks at officers. On Monday night, crowds destroyed dozens of buildings and set more than 30 fires downtown.
Before the two deadly shootings, the Kenosha County Board sent a letter Tuesday to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers requesting that at least 2,000 more National Guard troops be sent. Evers initially dispatched 150 troops on Monday and increased that to 250 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the board sent a new request, for 1,500.
“Our county is under attack. Our businesses are under attack. Our homes are under attack. Our local law enforcement agencies need additional support to help bring civility back to our community,” board leaders wrote.
Evers did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press reporters Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee, Jeff Baenen and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis, Don Babwin in Chicago and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed, as did news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York.