Wisconsin sheriff says he rebuffed requests to deputize armed citizens

The sheriff of Kenosha, Wis., said Wednesday he rebuffed requests to deputize armed citizens amid protests and violence in the city following the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday.

“I had a person call me and say why don't you deputize citizens who have guns to come out and patrol the city of Kenosha, and I’m like, ‘oh hell no,’” Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said during a press conference.

The sheriff said a shooting that occurred in the city on Tuesday night – where two people were killed and another injured during a protest over Blake’s shooting – was the “perfect reason” why he would not deputize armed citizens.

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Beth said if he were to do so, citizens would fall under his guidance and have to follow his policies, becoming a “liability” to both him, the county and the state of Wisconsin. 

“I don't know this for sure, but the incident that happened last night where two people lost their lives, I think they were part of this group that wanted me to deputize them,” he said. 

Illinois police on Wednesday arrested 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse in connection to the shooting Tuesday night. He has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Kenosha.

The shooting came during the third night of protests following the police shooting of Blake. Video captured by a third party shows Blake being shot in the back as he leaned into his SUV. Blake’s children were in the back of the SUV at the time.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice on Wednesday evening said that Blake acknowledged having a knife on him following an initial interaction with police and a knife was later recovered in a search of his car.

Authorities on Wednesday also identified the officer who fired seven rounds toward Blake as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department. The other officers' identities are expected to be released in the coming days.

Blake’s father on Tuesday said Blake was at least temporarily paralyzed from the waist down because of his injuries. The three Kenosha officers involved in the incident have been put on leave.