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Police stand near a garbage truck ablaze during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020.  (AP Photo/Morry Gash) Police stand near a garbage truck ablaze during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020.  (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Police stand near a garbage truck ablaze during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Haley BeMiller
By Haley BeMiller September 1, 2020

Trump paints false picture of Kyle Rittenhouse shootings ahead of Kenosha visit

If Your Time is short

  • Kyle Rittenhouse tripped and fell as a group of people pursued him on the night he allegedly killed two protesters and injured a third.

  • But Trump’s claim leaves out vital context: that Rittenhouse ran away from protesters after prosecutors say he had already shot and killed someone.

Editor's note: This item was updated to make clear that we are rating whether Trump described what happened accurately, not the separate question of whether what happened amounted to self-defense or, as charged by local prosecutors, homicide and other offenses.

President Donald Trump visited Kenosha on Sept. 1, 2020 as the city reels from the shooting of a Black man by police and the shooting deaths of two protesters during a night of chaos. 

Jacob Blake, 29, was shot in the back seven times at close range by Officer Rusten Sheskey on Aug. 23, 2020 as he walked away from officers and tried to get into an SUV with three of his children inside. The shooting left him paralyzed from the waist down, according to his family. 

Two nights later, an Illinois teenager used an AR-15-style rifle to kill two protesters and injure a third, according to eyewitness videos and a criminal complaint.

The charges against Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, increased tensions in a city that was already on edge, with some condemning his actions and others saying he was protecting the city and only shot in self-defense.

In an Aug. 31, 2020 media briefing, on the eve of his visit to Kenosha, Trump defended Rittenhouse’s actions when asked about the teenager. 

"You saw the same tape as I saw," Trump said. "And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation."

He went on to say of Rittenhouse: "I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — I — he probably would have been killed."

The president correctly describes some minor details about that night. But overall, his comments grossly mischaracterize what happened — leaving out that by the time of the events he described, prosecutors say Rittenhouse had already shot and killed a man.

In this fact-check, we are not examining the question of whether Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, as his attorney claims. We are examining whether Trump is providing an accurate description of what happened by focusing on only a portion of the events of that night.

He is not.

Let’s take a look. 

How the shootings unfolded

Details of the Aug. 25, 2020 shootings have emerged through eyewitness videos and a criminal complaint filed in Kenosha County Circuit Court. 

Here’s what we know: 

Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, approached Rittenhouse and a reporter interviewing him that night and began to chase Rittenhouse after he did a "juke" move. Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse, but it didn’t hit him. 

The two ended up in a parking lot, and the reporter told authorities that Rosenbaum tried to grab Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse fired four shots, and Rosenbaum dropped to the ground in front of him.

In a video, Rittenhouse can be heard saying on his cell phone, "I just killed someone."

Rittenhouse began running slowly down the street as a crowd began to follow him, with some people shouting "get him!" and shouting he just shot someone. Rittenhouse tripped and fell. 

While he was on the ground, police say, he appeared to fire two shots at a man who jumped over him but missed. 

After that, Anthony Huber, 26, ran up to Rittenhouse with a skateboard in one hand and appeared to hit him with it before reaching for Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse fired one round that hit Huber in the chest and killed him.

Rittenhouse sat up and pointed his gun at Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, who had started to approach him. Grosskreutz took a step back and put his hands in the air, but then moved toward Rittenhouse, who fired a shot that hit Grosskreutz in the arm.

Grosskreutz had a handgun. It is unclear whether Grosskreutz was pointing the gun at Rittenhouse, or if Rittenhouse saw that Grosskreutz had a gun.

Missing information paints false picture

Trump’s comments completely overlook the fact that people started following him after he allegedly shot and killed someone. He also claimed protesters "violently attacked" Rittenhouse, but that is not fully supported by the videos, either.

Witnesses say those who were chasing Rittenhouse were trying to stop him.

Rittenhouse later walked past a group of police vehicles, hands in the air, and ultimately returned home to nearby Antioch, Illinois, where he was arrested the next day.

What’s more, Trump suggested the matter is "under investigation." But while Rittenhouse’s attorney has indicated he would argue self defense, the teen has already been charged with homicide. It’s unclear what, if any, investigation would still be open.

Even before the comments, Trump drew headlines when he "liked" a tweet that said, "Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump." Rittenhouse, who is in jail awaiting extradition to Kenosha to face charges, is a Trump supporter.

Our ruling

Trump said a video shows Rittenhouse "was trying to get away from" protesters"  and "fell, and then they violently attacked him."

Rittenhouse did fall as a crowd followed him, but Trump’s comments leave an incendiary and false picture: By the time he fell, according to criminal charges, Rittenhouse had already shot and killed one person that night. 

We rate the claim False.

 

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More by Haley BeMiller

Trump paints false picture of Kyle Rittenhouse shootings ahead of Kenosha visit

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