Kyle Rittenhouse, who is on trial for murder, testified in court that he drove himself from his residence in Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 24, 2020, the day before he shot and killed two men at a protest that became violent.
According to court testimony and police records, the AR-15 style rifle that he says he used in self-defense during confrontations with the men had been stored at a friend’s house in Kenosha and was not with him in the car when he made the roughly 20-mile drive to Wisconsin from his home state.
In a Nov. 14 CNN interview, however, Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California falsely claimed that Wendy Rittenhouse, Kyle’s mother, drove her armed son across the Illinois-Wisconsin border to aid law enforcement during the rowdy demonstration against police brutality.
“Here, you have a 17-year-old boy who was driven by his mother across state lines with an automatic weapon — frankly, she should have been detained for child endangerment — to go to a protest where he says he’s going to help the police,” the congresswoman said. “I mean, it was ridiculous.”
A spokesperson for Bass did not respond to an email inquiring about the supporting evidence for her remarks. Her claim is very similar to one made in a viral Instagram post by actor and comedian D.L. Hughley on Nov. 13.
“Why are we just glazing over the fact that Kyle Rittenhouse’s mother put her minor child in a vehicle, drove him across state lines and dropped him off in the middle of a riot armed with an assault rifle. Why is she not behind bars?” reads the image Hughley posted, which got more than 149,000 likes on the social media platform.
But that’s not what happened, based on the available evidence.
Weapon Didn’t Cross State Lines
The Smith & Wesson semiautomatic rifle that Rittenhouse used in the shootings was already in Wisconsin, according to court testimony and police interviews.
Using money that Rittenhouse gave him, Dominick Black, a friend who also dated one of Rittenhouse’s sisters, bought the gun at a hardware store in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, in May 2020. Black, who was 18 at the time, purchased the gun for Rittenhouse, who at age 17, was too young to legally buy it for himself.
In court this month, Black and Rittenhouse said they agreed that Black would hold onto the rifle until Rittenhouse turned 18 in January 2021, and that it would be kept at Black’s home in Kenosha, where he lived with his stepfather, Scott Dickhart.
According to police records reviewed by the Kenosha News in November last year, Dickhart told authorities that he kept the gun in a locked safe until the evening of Aug. 24, 2020. Concerned about the civil unrest in the city that was sparked by a white Kenosha police officer shooting a Black man (Jacob Blake) in the back multiple times during an Aug. 23 arrest, Dickhart said he took the rifle out of the safe, which was in his garage, and put the gun in his basement.
On the witness stand, Black and Rittenhouse testified that Rittenhouse retrieved the gun from the basement on Aug. 25, 2020, before they both headed to downtown Kenosha with their rifles to help guard a used car dealership that had been damaged by a fire in a prior protest that turned destructive. Later on Aug. 25, Rittenhouse, who is charged with committing five felonies, including intentional and reckless homicide, ended up using the rifle to shoot three men, killing two of them (Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber) and injuring the other (Gaige Grosskreutz).
Rittenhouse Drove Himself to Kenosha
Kyle Rittenhouse also testified that he — not his mother — drove himself to Kenosha the day before the shootings occurred.
In mid-August last year, he had begun working as a lifeguard at the Pleasant Prairie RecPlex in Kenosha County and — although he did not possess a driver’s license — would drive to work from Antioch each day, he said. Rittenhouse told the court that he drove to work on Aug. 24 and stayed in Kenosha overnight at Black’s stepfather’s house. He remained in the city on Aug. 25, cleaning graffiti off a high school early in the day and then later going to a local store to buy a sling for his rifle.
Rittenhouse returned to his residence in Illinois shortly after the shootings, when Black drove him home. It’s not clear why Rittenhouse did not drive himself, but he had testified that his car was parked at the stepfather’s house and that Black drove them to downtown Kenosha in Black’s car.
When the teens arrived in Antioch, Rittenhouse said he told his mother and two sisters what had occurred that night in Kenosha and then his mother took him to the local police station to turn himself in at about 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 26.
Wendy Rittenhouse said in a November 2020 interview that she initially did not know of her son’s whereabouts or what he was doing on Aug. 25.
Rittenhouse, then a nursing assistant at a nursing home, told the Chicago Tribune that she worked a 16-hour shift on Aug. 24 and slept late on Aug. 25 before going to get a COVID-19 test for her job and then running other errands in Illinois with her oldest daughter.
It’s unclear why Bass claimed Wendy Rittenhouse drove her armed son to Kenosha. The available evidence shows that did not happen.
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