On Tuesday night, August 25 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered to protest the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake. Viral footage from the scene showsed a man, widely reported to be 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, confronting another man in a parking lot before shooting him. Additional video shows a man lying in the street with an assault rifle and firing on one protester, who subsequently collapses.
Now, NBC News has obtained an internal document from the Department of Homeland Security that issued media talking points regarding Rittenhouse. The document was created to assist Homeland Security officials when answering questions from the media, but rather than staying neutral on the matter, it directs them to make sympathetic public comments about Rittenhouse.
Instructions regarding Kyle Rittenhouse include:
- Officials should note he “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”
- “Kyle was seen being chased and attacked by rioters before allegedly shooting three of them, killing two.”
- “Subsequent video has emerged reportedly showing that there were ‘multiple gunmen’ involved, which would lend more credence to the self-defense claims.”
- Bringing conversations back to the need to preserve law and order: “This is also why we need to stop the violence in our cities. Chaotic and violent situations lead to chaotic, violent and tragic outcomes. Everyone needs law and order.”
According to NBC News, it’s unclear whether any of the talking points came from the White House or within Homeland Security’s own press office. It is known that Rittenhouse supported President Trump, and Trump has expressed sympathy for the young man, saying it appeared that Rittenhouse was “trying to get away from them,” — meaning, the protesters he’s accused of shooting and killing.
This information adds to the many public questions. One of them: Is it legal for a minor to own a gun? Among multiple homicide charges, the teen stands accused of a misdemeanor violation for being under 18 and in possession of a weapon.
However, experts say Rittenhouse’s legal team could concoct a surprising defense against the charge. Namely, is Rittenhouse protected by the Second Amendment?
WARNING: The following footage is uncensored and may be disturbing to some viewers.
The following morning, Kenosha police confirmed two deaths and one injury by gunfire at the protest. Authorities later identified the fatalities as 26-year-old Anthony Huber and 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum. The victim of injury, 26-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz, is expected to survive a gunshot to his arm.
Prime Suspect: Kyle Rittenhouse
Later that day, police issued an arrest warrant for Rittenhouse in connection with the attack. The teen reportedly turned himself in that night, and police arrested him as an adult on charges of first-degree intentional homicide.
In the days following his arrest, the list of charges against Rittenhouse has grown. The teen currently faces two counts of first-degree homicide and one of attempted homicide, reports CBS News. Rittenhouse also stands accused of recklessly endangering the safety of others and underage possession of a weapon.
The criminal complaint seems to confirm Rittenhouse is the gunman in the viral footage. Documents identified Rosenbaum as the man who was shot in the parking lot video. While fleeing the scene, Rittenhouse was reportedly heard telling someone on the phone, “I just killed somebody,” the complaint said.
The complaint also describes the incident in the second video. According to the document, the video shows the moment Anothony Huber, wielding a skateboard, tried to disarm the gunman and was shot to death as a result.
An Unorthodox Defense?
Rittenhouse’s defense attorney, John Pierce, reportedly told press that Rittenhouse “knows he did not do anything wrong and we’re gonna prove it at trial.” The attorney said he plans to argue that his client acted in self-defense.
As for the weapons charges, some experts believe Pierce could attempt to argue that Rittenhouse was protected by the Second Amendment. According to legal analyst Danny Cevallos, “Pierce will likely argue that Wisconsin’s ban on firearms possessions by 17-year-olds is unconstitutional because a 17-year-old minor is on the same Second Amendment footing as an adult.”
If that defense sounds like a reach, Cevallos agrees. Contributing to NBC News, the analyst cited several recent cases where age restrictions on guns were found to be perfectly legal. Among these is a 2008 Supreme Court case wherein Justice Antonin Scalia commented that, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
Pierce isn’t Rittenhouse’s only high-profile defender. In a press conference, President Donald Trump came to the suspect’s defense, telling reporters it looked like Rittenhouse was trying to escape.
“I guess he was in very big trouble,” he said. “He probably would have been killed.”
However, other public officials have spoken out against armed vigilantism, including Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.
“A senseless tragedy like this cannot happen again,” the governor said following the shooting. “I again ask those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights, please do so peacefully and safely, as so many did last night. I also ask the individuals who are not there to exercise those rights to please stay home and let local first responders, law enforcement, and members of the Wisconsin National Guard do their jobs.”