President Donald Trump on Monday sided with a 17-year old charged with killing two people during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying the accused gunman was trying to get away and would have been killed by demonstrators if he had not opened fire.
Trump on Tuesday will visit Kenosha, the site of protests against police brutality and racism since Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times by police on Aug. 23 and left paralyzed.
On the third night of protests, Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, shot three protesters, two fatally, with an assault rifle.
“He was trying to get away from them, And then he fell, and then they very violently attacked him,” Trump said at a briefing. “I guess he was in very big trouble, He probably would have been killed.”
Rittenhouse has been charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide, and his lawyer has said he plans to argue self-defense.
The Republican president, who has made law and order the main theme of his re-election campaign, declined to condemn violent acts by his supporters and railed against what he called rioting and anarchy carried out by “left-wing” protesters.
Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in the Nov. 3 election, accused the president of stoking violence with his rhetoric, while insisting that rioters and looters be prosecuted, according to Reuters reports.