Kenosha officials laud peaceful protests; Gov. Evers tells armed bystanders to stay home

Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 12:40 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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KENOSHA, Wis. (WBAY) - Kenosha’s police chief, mayor and sheriff held a news conference Thursday in which they thanked the community for a night of peaceful protests. Sheriff David Beth said Wednesday’s crowds were peaceful as they walked through Kenosha.

Kenosha update, August 27

FIRST ALERT: Kenosha officials are holding a news conference after a relatively quiet night in the city.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Thursday, August 27, 2020

It was the fourth night of protests following the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake.

“I think the people who were here last night were Kenosha’s people. We didn’t see streams of cars coming from out of Kenosha County,” said Beth. The sheriff was referencing outside groups that had allegedly come to Kenosha to instigate violence. “A huge part of me thinks a lot of our issues start when different people with different agendas come here to Kenosha.”

Officials did not discuss the so-called teenage vigilante being held in connection to the shooting. They took no questions from reporters.

On Thursday, Gov. Evers announced that additional help would provided to Kenosha via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. It’s an agreement between states during emergency situations.

National Guard troops from Michigan, Alabama and Arizona will respond to the city. On Wednesday, the governor authorized 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops to deploy to Kenosha. The National Guard is not saying how many troops are now supporting local first responders in Kenosha, citing operational security. The National Guard says they’re serving in a state, not federal, role.

“We’re here to provide public safety and protect the right to lawfully protest,” Wisconsin National Guard Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp said Thursday. “We’re here to carry out the important mission of local law enforcement to keep people safe.”

Gov. Evers, National Guard in Kenosha

Gov. Tony Evers holds a news conference in Kenosha with the commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Thursday, August 27, 2020

On Tuesday, a teenager being described as a “vigilante” allegedly opened fire before walking away from the scene. The suspect, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, was arrested in his home town of Antioch, Ill.

Two people were shot and killed. A third person was injured. Police would not say if Rittenhouse was responsible for all three shootings. He has been booked on a charge of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide.

The two men who were killed were Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, and Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, about 15 miles west of Kenosha. A third man was injured. Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, was volunteering as a medic when he was shot, according to Bethany Crevensten who was also among the group of about two dozen activists.

Rittenhouse was assigned a public defender in Illinois for a hearing Friday on his transfer to Wisconsin. The public defender’s office had no comment. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.

Videos on social media appear to show Rittenhouse carrying a rifle and opening fire. He’s chased down by someone in the crowd. Rittenhouse gets up and walks away toward oncoming law enforcement vehicles. No officers stop him.

At a news conference with the governor in Kenosha on Thursday, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said, “What do you think is going to happen when you have a person walking down the street with a long-arm rifle thinking of themselves as a peacekeeper? We have to deal with the devastating results of that.”

Prior to the shooting, Rittenhouse spoke with The Daily Caller. He told them, “And part of my job is to also help people. If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle -- because I can protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”

Rittenhouse also said he was pepper sprayed by someone in the crowd.

“So you had a non-lethal but you didn’t respond?” the interviewer asked.

“We don’t have non-lethal,” Rittenhouse answered.

“So you guys are full on ready to defend the property?”

“Yes we are,” Rittenhouse said.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said he did not know if Rittenhouse was part of a self-styled “militia” that showed up armed to the demonstrations. The chief said he did not know if the group was an organized militia or individual armed citizens.

Kenosha officials said they didn’t know why officers failed to stop Rittenhouse, saying noise and chaos at the scene could be a reason for them not acting.

Governor Evers said Thursday, “I would like to dis-invite all the people running around with long guns for no reason to just stay home. Some of them want to be policemen, some of them (are) anti-police. It’s a recipe for disaster and it’s a recipe for us to marginalize that freedom of speech that we all value so much.”

“These people are not auxiliary officers. The police have all the help they need from the National Guard,” Barnes added.

On other nights of protests, businesses and buildings were burned. Officers fired rubber bullets and used tear gas to push back demonstrators.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation released additional information Wednesday about the shooting of Jacob Blake. The DOJ says Kenosha Police were called to a home in the 2800 block of 40th Street after a woman reported that her boyfriend was there and he was not supposed to be on the premises.

The DOJ statement says responding officers tried to arrest Blake. They used a taser, but it didn’t work on him.

“Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times. Officer Sheskey fired the weapon into Mr. Blake’s back. No other officer fired their weapon. Kenosha Police Department does not have body cameras, therefore the officers were not wearing body cameras,” reads the statement from DOJ.

Officer Rusten Sheskey is a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department.

“During the investigation following the initial incident, Mr. Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession. DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons,” reads the statement from DOJ.”

Blake was airlifted to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. Blake’s family and attorney Ben Crump say that he is paralyzed from the waist down. It’s not clear if his condition is permanent.

DCI is expected to provide its report to the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office within 30 days. The prosecutor will then make a decision whether charges will be filed.

Officer Sheskey is on paid administrative leave, which is protocol during police shooting investigations.

Meanwhile, members of some Wisconsin police and sheriff groups have sent a letter to Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, asking them to “refrain from making statements and issuing press releases specific to the City of Kenosha Police involved shooting until the facts of the investigation are known.”

Here is the full statement:

The letter sent out Thursday is in reference to the statement released by Evers Sunday, just hours after the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey.

This is the statement released by Evers Sunday:

The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed a Civil Rights Investigation into the shooting of Blake.

“The investigation will be conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation and other state authorities, and will be overseen by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division. The federal investigation will run parallel to, and share information with, state authorities to the extent permissible under law,” reads a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

On Thursday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and leaders with the NAACP visited Kenosha and called for justice.

“Jacob has no weapon anyone can see... (he’s) shot. (Rittenhouse) runs with his rifle, kill two people, run down the street and police give him a bottle of water. We deserve better than this,” Jackson said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson in Kenosha

FIRST ALERT: The Rev. Jesse Jackson and NAACP leaders are speaking in Kenosha.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Thursday, August 27, 2020

Copyright 2020 WBAY. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.