KYLE RITTENHOUSE cashed a coronavirus stimulus check to purchase the semi-automatic rife he’d later use to fatally shoot two men in Kenosha, the accused double-murderer said.
In a telephone interview with the Washington Post, posted on Thursday, the jailed Rittenhouse also said he acted in self-defense and has no regrets for arming himself that fateful August night as protesters marched in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting by police.
The 17-year-old, who had worked as a YMCA lifeguard, was arrested at his home in Antioch, Illinois, a day after the Aug. 25 fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26.
“I got my $1,200 from he coronavirus Illinois unemployment because I was on furlough from YMCA and I got my first unemployment check, so I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll use this to buy it,’” Rittenhouse said in his first jailhouse interview.
He wasn’t old enough to purchase the weapon himself, so he allegedly had a friend in Kenosha buy the AR-15 and hold it for him in Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse — who lived across a state line, but just 20 miles from Kenosha — said he was out on the streets of that southeast Wisconsin town on Aug. 25 to protect local businesses and render medical aid during protests.
Pictures of Rittenhouse that night show him with his AR-15 slung over his shoulder and a medic’s bag on his hip.
“I was going into a place where people had guns, and god forbid somebody brought a gun to me and decided to shoot me … I wanted to be protected, which I ended up having to protect myself,” Rittenhouse told the newspaper.
Later asked if he regretted arming himself, Rittenhouse said he didn’t
“No, I don’t regret it,” he said. “I would have died that night if I didn’t. I feel like I had to protect myself.”
Rosenbaum had long struggled with mental illness and suicide attempts, and had just been released from a hospital earlier that day, his fiancee, Kariann Swart, told the Post.
Swart said they spent hours at a motel where she lived and cleaned rooms. But due to a previous arrest for domestic violence, Rosenbaum left the motel that night, fearing he could be arrested for breaking an order of protection, she told the newspaper.
She urged him to steer clear of downtown Kenosha, but he somehow ended up in the middle of the protest. Video taken by bystanders appears to show Rosenbaum running at Rittenhouse and throwing a plastic bag at him moments before shots rang out and the 36-year-old crumpled to the pavement.
Swart said that bag was filled with belongings Rosenbaum had with him at the hospital. The girlfriend rejected Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim.
“I don’t think there’s any sort of self-defense when there’s an unarmed person in front of you and you’re holding an assault rifle two feet away,” Swart said.
Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.