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Former Florida attorney general calls Kyle Rittenhouse 'a little boy out there trying to protect his community'
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager accused of fatally shooting protesters last month in Kenosha, Wis., describing him as "a little boy out there trying to protect his community."
Rittenhouse, 17, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide after he allegedly shot and killed two people during a protest in Kenosha. At the time, the city had seen consecutive nights of demonstrations sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man whose family said he was left partially paralyzed after he was shot several times at point blank range in the back.
Since Rittenhouse's arrest, a number of conservative figures and lawmakers have sought to defend the teenager, saying footage from that night shows he was acting in self-defense and that his actions were "justified."
The comments by Bondi on Tuesday came shortly after she was pressed on Sean Hannity's Fox News program about portions of a video that the network aired earlier on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" that included edited footage appearing to portray Rittenhouse's actions in a more positive light, according to Mediate, which has footage of the former attorney general's appearance on the network.
"I have watched this case closely. I have talked to different people involved, telling me from the beginning 'We don't know the whole story.' What does this videotape tell you?" Hannity asked Bondi.
"People have to understand out there, that was a war zone. You have got a 17-year-old out there trying to protect his state," Bondi said.
Rittenhouse was arrested in his home state of Illinois the day after he allegedly shot three people - two fatally and one who was wounded - in Kenosha.
"He is helping people who have been injured. He has paramedic training from being a lifeguard. He is taking graffiti off walls. He is trying to mitigate the chaos out there," added Bondi, a former special adviser to President Trump and a surrogate for his reelection campaign.
"There were bullets flying everywhere. Other people were firing, This kid was trying to help people. Were there people killed? Absolutely," she continued. "You've got a little boy out there trying to protect his community."
"Should he have been out there with a gun? No. But should he have been charged with murder? We just don't know yet," said Bondi, who helped represent Trump during his impeachment trial in the Senate earlier this year.
Bondi's comments were met with immediate backlash from many Twitter users, including some who said her comments amounted to a double standard in light of the case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Black 17-year-old boy from Florida who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012. Critics argued that Bondi is painting a sympathetic picture of Rittenhouse, something she did not do for Martin.
In her time as Florida attorney general, a position she held from 2011 until last year, Bondi appointed a state attorney to the case and pushed for justice to be brought to Martin's family in addition to due process for Zimmerman, who was later acquitted in Martin's death.