Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted on charges stemming from killing two men and wounding another during the unrest that followed the shooting of a Black man by a white police officer, said in a wide-ranging interview that aired on Monday night that he’s “not a racist person” and supports the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
“This case has nothing to do with race. It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defence,” the 18-year-old told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in an interview that aired on Monday night. Rittenhouse is white, as were the men he shot.
Rittenhouse was 17 last year when he travelled 32 kilometres from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha, Wisconsin, which had been racked with protests in the wake of the August 23 shooting of Jacob Blake. That shooting and the response in Kenosha — protests that turned destructive — became part of the national reckoning over police use of force against Black people following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis the previous May at the hands of police.
Rittenhouse, armed with an AR-style semiautomatic rifle, joined others who said they were intent on protecting private property from potential damage on Aug 25. During his trial, prosecutors argued that the teenager was a “wannabe soldier” who went looking for trouble that night. Rittenhouse countered that he fired in self-defence after he was attacked and in fear for his life.
“I thought they came to the correct verdict because it wasn’t Kyle Rittenhouse on trial in Wisconsin — it was the right to self-defence on trial,” Rittenhouse said in the interview. “And if I was convicted ... no one would ever be privileged to defend their life against attackers.”
He said some people, including some who have made threats against him, are “too ignorant to look at the facts”.
The shootings quickly made Rittenhouse a rallying cry for supporters of Second Amendment rights and those angered by the sometimes violent protests seen in some American cities after Floyd’s death.
Rittenhouse was photographed in a bar before the trial with apparent members of the far-right Proud Boys. Rittenhouse’s attorneys have said he is not a white supremacist.
“I’m not a racist person. I support the BLM movement, I support peacefully demonstrating,” Rittenhouse told Carlson. He said, “I feel like my life has been extremely defamed,” and hinted that he may be taking action, saying: “I have really good lawyers who are taking care of that right now.”
He also hit hard at his former attorneys, John Pierce and Lin Wood, who he said used him to promote a “cause” as they raised $2 million for his bail.
When asked about that over the weekend, Pierce said he had no comment. Wood told The Associated Press that the foundation he heads, Fightback Foundation, raised money for Rittenhouse’s bail and publicly said the case was a Second Amendment issue.
“I was not an attorney pushing for a cause,” Wood said. “Fightback has a mission that includes the right to bear arms and self-defence.”
Rittenhouse told Carlson that he wishes the shootings in Kenosha “never would’ve happened”.
“But it did, and we can’t change that. But how ... polarised it became is absolutely sickening, like right or left, people using me for a cause that should never have been used as a cause.”
Rittenhouse said that his life is different from what he had planned. He said he is taking college prerequisites to become a nurse and hopes to study on campus, but is now also thinking about studying law. He plans to move from the Midwest but is not exactly sure where he will go.
“I’m going to go lay low and live my life and enjoy it,” he said.
A jury last Friday found Rittenhouse not guilty on charges of homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering in the deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28.