Who Is Kyle Rittenhouse?
For much of his life, Mr. Rittenhouse, now 18, tried on identities infused with bravery and service.
Kyle Rittenhouse idolized the police and styled himself as an emergency medic.
Nov. 10, 2021, 10:49 a.m. ET
By Julie Bosman
Kyle Rittenhouse had revered law enforcement since he was young, joining a cadet program for at-risk youth and later decorating his social media pages with Blue Lives Matter images.Credit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg
Kyle Rittenhouse arrived in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, with at least one mission in mind: to play the role of police officer and medic, joining a group of other armed civilians roaming the city streets, offering medical attention to strangers and protecting buildings from rioters.
The night would end with Mr. Rittenhouse, then 17, engaging in violence himself, fatally shooting two men and wounding another. Hours later, he turned himself in to the police in Illinois, where he lived.
For much of his life, Mr. Rittenhouse had tried on identities infused with bravery and service, while exaggerating his accomplishments and eventually dropping out of high school.
He had idolized law enforcement since he was young, joining a cadet program for at-risk youths in his hometown, Antioch, Ill., and later decorating his social media pages with Blue Lives Matter images and praise for former President Donald J. Trump. At the time of the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse was employed part-time as a lifeguard at a recreational complex in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., which borders Kenosha.
His parents were divorced, and he lived with his mother, Wendy, in an apartment in Antioch, a small town in a rural area along the Wisconsin border. But he found a male role model in Dominick Black, the boyfriend of Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister McKenzie. The two young men became so close that they called each other brothers.
Mr. Black was perhaps Mr. Rittenhouse’s strongest tie to Kenosha, and a key enabler of the shootings in August 2020. Mr. Rittenhouse, who at 17 was too young to purchase a firearm legally in Wisconsin, paid Mr. Black to buy him a military-style semiautomatic rifle at an Ace Hardware store in Ladysmith, in rural northern Wisconsin.
The two met with other armed people on the night of the shootings to protect Car Source, a used-car business, where Mr. Rittenhouse carried his weapon and falsely told people in the crowd that he was a trained emergency medical technician.
After he was charged with six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, the most serious murder charge in Wisconsin, Mr. Rittenhouse and his family embraced far-right groups that came to his side, united in the message that the killings were acts of self-defense.