U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that a teen who opened fire during demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., last Tuesday and is accused of killing two people and wounding one probably would have been killed himself.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested and is facing two charges of first degree homicide and one charge of attempted first degree homicide.
During an afternoon briefing, Trump was asked if he would condemn vigilantes such as the Kenosha man.
“That was an interesting situation,” Trump told reporters.
“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 is something that we’re looking at right now, and it’s under investigation. I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed. But it’s under investigation.”
WATCH | Trump defends teen arrested in the killings of two people in Kenosha, Wis.:
Earlier in the day, Trump’s press secretary had said the president would not comment on the shootings that happened in Kenosha during the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot seven times in the back as he tried to get into his SUV where his children were sitting.
Protesters have marched in Kenosha every night since Blake’s shooting, with some protests devolving into violence that has damaged buildings and vehicles. Authorities say a teenager from northern Illinois shot and killed two protesters in Kenosha on Tuesday night.
Asked if Trump would condemn the motives of the gunman, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday told reporters, “The president is not going to weigh in on that.”
Earlier Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Trump can’t condemn the violence because “for years he has fomented it.”
Biden condemned the violence and accused Trump of causing the divisions that have ignited it, delivering an uncharacteristically blistering speech and distancing himself from radical forces involved in altercations.
He said of Trump, “He doesn’t want to shed light, he wants to generate heat, and he’s stoking violence in our cities. He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it.”
WATCH | Biden says Trump ‘rooting for chaos’ ahead of Wisconsin visit:
“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” Biden asked while delivering a speech in Pittsburgh.
Most arrested in Kenosha non-residents
Most of the people arrested in the demonstrations against police brutality were not city residents, according to police.
Of the 175 people arrested during protests in Kenosha since Blake was shot in the back Aug. 23, leaving the 29-year-old Black man paralyzed, 102 have addresses outside of Kenosha, including 44 different cities, police said in a statement Sunday night.
Many of the other arrests were for curfew violations, and also included possible charges for burglary, possession of illegal drugs and carrying concealed weapons without a permit, officials said. More than 20 firearms have been seized.
Blake was shot after three Kenosha officers responded to a domestic dispute call.
In cellphone video recorded by a bystander, Blake walks from the sidewalk around the front of an SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns drawn and shout at him. As Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire. Three of Blake’s children were in the vehicle.
City officials have identified Rusten Sheskey as the officer who shot Blake.
The Kenosha police union said Blake had a knife and fought with officers. State investigators have said only that officers found a knife on the floor of the car.
Blake is being treated in a hospital. His father, Jacob Blake Sr., said he’s paralyzed from the waist down.
While protests last week were against police brutality, police supporters gathered Sunday in downtown Kenosha. Some attending the rally wore “back the blue” shirts. Others carried American flags. They applauded when law enforcement vehicles rolled by.
Some people at Sunday’s rally signed petitions urging the recall of Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, both Democrats, and added messages of support on handwritten posters thanking police.
Evers wrote to U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday, urging the president to reconsider his plans to visit Kenosha on Tuesday.
WATCH | Biden goes after Trump for fanning flames of violence:
“I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state. I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together,” the governor wrote.
But, Kenosha County Board supervisors also wrote to Trump on Sunday, urging him not to consider cancelling his trip.
“Kenoshans are hurting and looking for leadership, and your leadership in this time of crisis is greatly appreciated by those devastated by the violence in Kenosha,” the letter from seven supervisors said.
Trump, Biden exchange accusations
Trump and Republicans are increasingly running on a “law and order” message heading into the November elections, highlighting violence at protests focused on criminal justice reform as examples of what the country will look like under a Biden administration.
This weekend, one of Trump’s supporters was shot at a demonstration in Portland, Ore., prompting multiple tweets from Trump himself, including one late Sunday erroneously accusing Biden of failing to criticize the “agitators” at the protests. Biden did, however, issue a statement Sunday afternoon denouncing the violent acts.
“I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same,” Biden said in the statement.
Biden has repeatedly denounced violence at these protests, and last week accused Trump of viewing the violence as a “political benefit.”
“He’s rooting for more violence, not less. And it’s clear about that,” he said.