Two Killed in Kenosha After Armed Men Arrive Saying They’re “Protecting” Local Shops

A third night of unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin ended in two people being shot and killed, and a third shooting victim hospitalized with serious, but non-life threatening injuries, according to local police. Protests over police shooting 29-year-old local resident Jacob Blake on Sunday kicked off again in front of the Kenosha County courthouse Tuesday evening. After a night of police clashes with angry protesters and fires being set to dozens of buildings and vehicles, an increased police presence barricaded the building. Protesters threw water bottles and fireworks at the officers defending the building, who respondedwith tear gas and rubber bullets.

The standoff continued until after the 8 p.m. citywide curfew with protesters lingering in the streets nearby until around midnight. It was then that the shooting took place and appears to be linked to a visibly armed group of men claiming they were there to protect local businesses. From the New York Times:

Many protesters left the area, but others lingered and walked to a gas station several blocks away. There, a group of men with guns stood outside, promising to protect the property and verbally sparring with the arriving protesters. As the night stretched on, the gas station became a tense gathering spot, with bystanders watching from parked cars and people milling around in the street, arguing and occasionally shoving each other. Police officers had crept closer to the gas station in armored trucks, urging the people who were still there to go home. After midnight, shots were fired outside the gas station.

Videos taken at the chaotic scene appear to show this group of armed men in the streets with weapons. “They’re a militia,” Kenosha Sheriff David Beth said. “They’re like a vigilante group.” Police say that group of men is the focus of their investigation, in particular one man carrying a long gun though they haven’t confirmed he is affiliated with the group, and they’re analyzing the video taken at the scene. “A widely shared video shows a man sprinting into the parking lot of Bert and Rudy’s Auto Service at 63th Street and Sheridan Road, carrying a long gun,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. “Other videos show a man who seems to be the same man wielding a long gun while running north on Sheridan Road, being pursued by people screaming that he shot someone. He falls to the ground and fires the gun at people who seem to be trying to disarm him. While on the ground, he appears to shoot two of them, one in the torso and another in the arm.” The man is also believed to have shot another person in the head during the melee. Police say they expect the alleged shooter to be taken into custody shortly.

“I’ve had people saying, ‘Why don’t you deputize citizens?’” Sheriff Beth said of the armed men. “This is why you don’t deputize citizens with guns to protect Kenosha.”

*story by Slate Magazine