In late August 2020, Snopes readers asked whether social media posts and news stories were true that said police had expressed thanks and given water to an armed 17-year-old who was later charged with killing two men and wounding a third during protests against the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake. Blake, who is Black, had been shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police on Aug. 23.
Specifically, videos emerged showing what appeared to be police officers giving Kyle Rittenhouse bottled water and saying they “appreciate” the armed counterprotesters he was congregating with.
The claim is true. The friendly exchange between Rittenhouse and police, like many of the significant occurrences on the night of the deadly shootings, was captured on a cellphone camera.
In the exchange that happened around 11:30 p.m., 15 minutes before the killing of Joseph “Jojo” Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, Rittenhouse encountered police in an armored vehicle. The following conversation occurred, with a police officer talking over a loudspeaker:
Police officer: Hey thank you guys (unintelligible). You need water? Seriously. (Unintelligible) You need water?
Rittenhouse: We need water!
Police officer: We’ll throw you one.
As Rittenhouse casually walked into the street among police vehicles, officers can then be heard ordering someone to leave the area because they were trespassing. “Yes, you,” the officer can be heard saying. “You are a civilian. (Unintelligible) You’re trespassing. Leave. Leave, now.”
The officer then goes back to addressing the group of armed men Rittenhouse was standing with. “We got a couple [of water bottles]. We’ve got to save a couple, but we’ll give you a couple. We appreciate you guys, we really do.”
The exchange was initially captured in a livestream of events posted to Facebook by The Rundown Live, an independent, Milwaukee-based radio station. A shortened clip was posted to Twitter by civil rights attorney Rebecca Kavanagh:
Cell phone video shows Kenosha Wisconsin police officers in an military vehicle telling armed White militia members they "appreciate them being there" and giving them bottled water; while in the background cops can be heard ordering protestors to disperse. pic.twitter.com/73SsfCUYWj
— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) August 26, 2020
We’re unsure which police agency the officer in the above video works for. Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth has stated the vehicle didn’t come from his department. We left two phone messages for Lt. Joseph Nosalik, public information officer for the Kenosha Police Department, asking if the officer works for that agency, but have not heard back.
Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15-style firearm and is accused of reckless intentional homicide of Rosenbaum and Huber, and attempted reckless intentional homicide of Grosskreutz, who can be seen in some videos with his right arm nearly severed from the bullet wound, according to a criminal complaint Kenosha County prosecutors filed on Aug. 27.
Rosenbaum was shot five times, according to the complaint. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Huber was shot in the chest and died at the scene.
After the shootings, Rittenhouse was seen in videos walking toward police with his hands up as bystanders yelled that he had shot someone. But police drive by him, on their way to help victims. Rittenhouse was arrested the following morning in his home town of Antioch, Illinois.
Rittenhouse was also charged with reckless endangerment and possession of a deadly weapon by a person under the age of 18, according to the criminal complaint.
Rittenhouse is currently in custody in Illinois and is awaiting a hearing seeking extradition to Wisconsin. The hearing is set for Sept. 25, 2020.