LEWIS COUNTY, Ky. (FOX19) - U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie issued a strong message of support Thursday for Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two men and wounding a third last month during protests in Kenosha, Wis.
Massie is a Republican who represents Kentucky’s 4th congressional district, which includes all of Northern Kentucky. He spoke Thursday morning on a Huntington, W.Va. radio show hosted by Tom Roten.
During the interview, Massie praised Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, for exhibiting “incredible restraint” in not emptying the magazine of his semi-automatic rifle into a crowd of protesters during the Kenosha protests Aug. 27.
“He also exhibited incredible restraint and presence and situational awareness,” Massie said. “He didn’t empty a magazine into a crowd. There were people around him who could have caused him harm, but as soon as they showed any sign of retreat or nonaggression, he did not shoot them. He exhibited more restraint than a lot of the police videos I’ve seen.”
Asked what he thought of the video showing Jacob Blake being shot by police, Massie demurred.
“It needs to be reviewed, everybody gets a trial,” he said. “Frankly, I am not as aware of that situation as of the Rittenhouse situation.”
Jacob Blake’s shooting by police originally touched off the protests.
Cell phone video taken on the third night of the protests shows Rittenhouse carrying a semi-automatic rifle around Kenosha.
According to the criminal complaint, Rittenhouse first shot a man in a used car lot after the man threw a plastic bag at the teen and allegedly tried to take his gun. A minute later, after falling to the ground while being chased by people shouting he had shot someone, Rittenhouse shot a man also allegedly trying to take his gun. Rittenhouse then shot a third man who appeared to be holding a handgun, the complaint reads.
“He was fulfilling his obligation to retreat, and then he fell down, and these, one tried to attack him with a skateboard, another pulled a handgun on him, another tried to jump on him with his foot, and he responded in self-defense,” Massie said.
“I would not convict him of a single one of these charges.”
Roten followed: “I hate it for this young man, because it seemed like he was there to help and render aid and provide protection and was cleaning up graffiti and so forth, was giving police bottled water, and seemed like a good young man, and his life is going to be turned upside down.”
Kenosha police faced questions about their interactions with the gunman on Tuesday night, AP reports. According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the gunman walk past them and leave the scene with a rifle over his shoulder and his hands in the air, as members of the crowd yelled for him to be arrested because he had shot people.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said the gunman likely slipped away because the scene was chaotic. Rittenhouse later surrendered in Antioch.
Rittenhouse awaits a Sept. 25 extradition hearing to determine whether he should be returned to Wisconsin where he faces the homicide charges.
He is currently in custody in Lake County, Illinois, charged with six criminal counts including intentional homicide, reckless homicide, recklessly endangering safety and possession of a dangerous weapon.