Kyle Rittenhouse—the 17-year-old charged in the killing of two people in Kenosha, Wis., during unrest last week—is emerging as a hero to some on the right, with a hefty legal fund and a high-profile defense team.
President Trump also has suggested that he might have acted in self-defense.
Several legal funds have been set up for Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense.
GiveSendGo.com, which describes itself as “the No. 1 Free Christian Fundraising Site” had raised more than $332,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, saying on its webpage that Mr. Rittenhouse “just defended himself from a brutal attack by multiple members of the far-leftist group Antifa.”
The group plans to continue raising money for Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense despite criticism and threats to the organization, said Heather Wilson, co-founder of GiveSendGo, in an email.
“People want to do something to make their voices heard,” she said of why she organized the group. “And we will continue to provide the platform to allow that.”
A conservative legal group called the Fightback Foundation helped organize Mr. Rittenhouse’s legal team and is also raising money for his defense, according to L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta attorney who said he helped set up the foundation.
Mr. Wood didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
A group called Republicans United, made up of students at Arizona State University, said on its website that it is donating half of all proceeds collected this fall to Mr. Rittenhouse. Amanda Reyes, who helps administer the group’s
site, said it had raised $11,000 so far and donated half to the Fightback Foundation.
“Normal people are upset with the lawlessness,” she said in a private Facebook message to a reporter. “Everyone has a right to self-defense, and when they are accused of a crime they should have access to every resource in their disposal for a proper legal defense.”
Mr. Rittenhouse, currently in custody in Lake County, Ill., was charged Thursday with six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, recklessly endangering safety and possession of a dangerous weapon. He has yet to enter a plea.
His legal team has said he drove from his home in Illinois to Kenosha to help defend a business amid widespread protests and arson after a white Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times on Aug. 23.
In the criminal complaint, prosecutors alleged Mr. Rittenhouse first killed an unarmed man who was approaching him and was moving to grab his AR15-style rifle. He killed a second unarmed person, who hit him with a skateboard and attempted to take his gun, as Mr. Rittenhouse was pursued by a crowd and fell to the ground, according to the complaint. And he fired on a third person who was carrying a weapon, hitting that person in the arm.
His lawyers say he was acting in self-defense and that he and some friends had come to Kenosha to protect the business of someone who had called them for help.
“Kyle, he’s a good kid, he’s a lifeguard,” attorney John Pierce said on the Fox News program “Tucker Carlson Live” Monday night. “Kyle actually took a first-aid kit downtown because he thought some demonstrators might be injured and in fact he brought a weapon because Kenosha had become a war zone.”
Mr. Pierce said Mr. Rittenhouse was treating an injured protester when he got trapped beyond police lines as protesters began pursuing him.
“He was trying to retreat from a mob that was enraged that he was trying to put out fires that the arsonists had set.” he said. “They started relentlessly hunting him.”
Mr. Pierce, who has represented Carter Page and other high-profile clients, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I want to be very clear: We should not tolerate violence against any person,” said Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, in a statement. “The individual or individuals whose actions resulted in this tragic loss of life must be held accountable.”
On the eve of his trip to review the damage in Kenosha Tuesday, Mr. Trump, was asked about Mr. Rittenhouse, suggesting in a White House news conference Monday that he may have acted in self-defense.
“He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like, and he fell, and then they very violently attacked him,” the president said. “I guess he was in very big trouble, he would have been, he probably would have been killed, but it’s under investigation.”
Asked by a reporter if private citizens should be intervening like that, Mr. Trump said: “I’d like to see law enforcement take care of everything.”
Write to Joe Barrett at [email protected]
Corrections & Amplifications
John Pierce’s former law firm represented Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said his current firm represented her. (Corrected on Sept. 1)
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