A mentally ill man, a heavily armed teenager and the night Kenosha burned https://t.co/RDjU224dhG
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) October 4, 2020
Anti-police-brutality demonstrators were converging on Kenosha from all over Wisconsin for a second night of marches. An armed right-wing group had put out a call for “patriots willing to take up arms and defend [our] City tonight from the evil thugs.”
Joseph Rosenbaum — depressed, homeless and alone — didn’t belong to either side. He had spent most of his adult life in prison for sexual conduct with children when he was 18 and struggled with bipolar disorder. That day, Aug. 25, Rosenbaum was discharged from a Milwaukee hospital following his second suicide attempt in as many months and dumped on the streets of Kenosha.
His confrontation hours later with Kyle Rittenhouse, a heavily armed teenager who had answered the call for “patriots,” kicked off a chain of violence — the deadliest of the summer — that left Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, dead. A third victim, Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, lost a chunk of his right biceps but survived.
Within hours, the three men and the teenager who shot them were assigned roles in the country’s churning partisan drama. On the right, Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz were cast as antifa foot soldiers, bankrolled by shadowy forces and determined to set fires and spread anarchy. On the left, the three shooting victims, all of them White, were celebrated as anti-racist martyrs battling armed vigilantes who had coalesced to support police departments accused of racism and brutality…
The real story of the Kenosha shootings offers a different view of the sometimes-chaotic protests and counterprotests that have shaken American cities this summer. The confrontation between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum, and the bloodshed that followed, was more accidental than political — the product of anger, alienation and a tragic, chance encounter between a mentally ill man and a heavily armed teenager.
This story is based on court documents, videos from the demonstrations and interviews with more than three dozen of the victims’ friends and relatives. Some of them, such as Rosenbaum’s fiancee and Huber’s girlfriend, spoke at length for the first time, providing the most comprehensive account to date of Rosenbaum’s and Huber’s often painful childhoods, past encounters with police and paths to the protests that night.
Each of the three shooting victims was drawn for different reasons to the demonstrations that erupted after the Aug. 23 wounding of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a White police officer. Their lives, forever linked by the bullets from Rittenhouse’s assault-style rifle, had proceeded along different routes, and each carried objects that shed light on their journeys and motivations…
The story doesn’t discuss Kyle Rittenhouse beyond the barest description of the shooting, but he doesn’t seem to have had the most salutatory background, either:
To be clear about this. At event sponsored by the Waukesha GOP in Wisconsin, the mother of the 17-year-old boy who took a rifle across state lines to Kenosha, and shot three people, killing two… Received a standing ovation. Led by one of the right’s most notorious racists.
— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) September 25, 2020
Lawyers for Kyle Rittenhouse have raised nearly $2 million for his defense by depicting the alleged Kenosha shooter as an American hero. Some legal experts say that rhetoric may draw donors, but it could hurt the teen's chances before a jury. https://t.co/pC7M20ECsO
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 24, 2020