Michael Rittenhouse is the father of the then-Antioch, Illinois, teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted shooting deaths of two men in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the wounding of a third.
Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty by a Kenosha jury of all charges on November 19, 2021. Read more about the verdict here.
Kyle Rittenhouse’s dad has been a much lower key figure than his mom, Wendy Rittenhouse, with whom the then 17-year-old was living when the shootings occurred. Rittenhouse’s dad is also called Mike Rittenhouse.
A single mother who has worked as a nurse’s assistant, Rittenhouse’s mom has defended him in interviews. She was controversially at his side when he was photographed with members of the Proud Boys organization in a Wisconsin bar, but his attorneys say he is not affiliated with that group. However, his dad hasn’t been much of a media presence.
During dramatic testimony on the witness stand on November 10, Kyle Rittenhouse explained that his father lived in Kenosha, which is why he was in that city, in addition to working in the area as a lifeguard. Rittenhouse broke into tears when testifying about the first shooting, of Joseph Rosenbaum, who was chasing him into a corner, video shows. His mother was present in court and also was sobbing during that testimony. Watch Rittenhouse’s emotional testimony here.
Kyle Rittenhouse was a supporter of police who filled his Facebook page with pictures of guns and law enforcement advocacy; his lawyers say he went to Kenosha to protect people and property, but prosecutors charged him with criminal homicide and other serious charges. Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. His lawyers are claiming self defense, and the jury agreed.
The shootings broke out on August 25, 2020, during Kenosha, Wisconsin, protests and riots over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, 29, survived the August 23, 2020, shooting by Kenosha police and is paralyzed, his family’s lawyer has said. The officer who shot Blake was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Kenosha County district attorney.
Read the full criminal complaint against Kyle Rittenhouse here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rittenhouse’s Parents Are Divorced; His Dad Struggled With Alcohol & Worked as a Machine Operator
A profile in the New Yorker reported that Wendy is divorced from Kyle’s father, Mike Rittenhouse, whom she married in 2000. They had three children, including Faith and McKenzie, his sisters.
Mike was a machine operator who struggled with alcohol and drugs and unemployment and was accused of domestic battery against Wendy, but he denied the charges, which were later dismissed, according to The New Yorker, which said Wendy and her kids lived in a homeless shelter for a time.
According to The New Yorker, Mike is now sober and wants to be more connected to his family, but Wendy continued to struggle financially, even being evicted. She is dyslexic and has had health issues, The New Yorker reported, so Kyle, as a teen, worked jobs to help support the family.
2. Rittenhouse Would Sometimes Visit His Dad in Kenosha, Defense Attorneys Say
Mike Rittenhouse came up briefly during the first days of his son’s jury trial. The defense attorney, Mark Richards, said that Rittenhouse would often visit his dad in Kenosha.
He also said that Rittenhouse worked in the Kenosha area as a lifeguard, although he lived in Antioch, Illinois, with his mother. The defense was using this point to show that Rittenhouse had ties to Kenosha, unlike some other people who descended on the city during days of unrest.
They said he was visiting a friend’s house there before they decided to clean up graffiti and protect a local business, on the night of the shootings.
His sister McKenzie also came up in testimony because a man she dated testified he purchased Rittenhouse’s rifle for him.
3. Kyle’s Dad, Who Was Ordered to Pay Child Support for Kyle & His Two Siblings, Is Not a Former Law Enforcement Officer
Shortly after the shootings, false reports emerged on the Internet that Kyle’s father was a former law enforcement officer. This is not true, according to an assessment of the claim by Politifact.
There is no evidence Michael Rittenhouse was ever a police officer or deputy sheriff.
According to Politifact, “Court records from 2014 show that Kyle Rittenhouse’s, Michael Rittenhouse, was living in Zion, Ill., when he was ordered to pay $85 a week in child support. At the time, he worked for QPS Employment, a firm that provides temporary office workers and other staffing services.”
Insider reported, “In March 2014, Wendy Rittenhouse filed a child support claim against his father, Michael, for him, his now 20-year-old sister and another sibling who turns 17 in December, according to court documents. Michael Rittenhouse is ordered to pay child support until May 31, 2022.” According to Insider.com, Michael Rittenhouse also lived for a time in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
4. Rittenhouse Lived With His Mom, Who Struggled Financially & Who Has Been Called a ‘Single Mom’
Rittenhouse’s mother’s Facebook page indicated she works in health care and is a law enforcement supporter. Her name is sometimes given as Wendy Lewis but was given in court as Wendy Rittenhouse. The Washington Post described her as a single mom and nurse’s assistant.
She was a constant presence during her son’s jury trial.
According to Forbes, she is “a single mother of three,” who says she slept late the day of the shootings “after a 16-hour shift as a nursing assistant.”
According to The Washington Post, Kyle Rittenhouse was a “high school dropout who viewed law enforcement officers as his personal heroes.” However, the Chicago Tribune reported it wasn’t clear if Rittenhouse attended school. He attended Lakes Community High School in 2017-18 but is no longer enrolled and went to Lake Villa School for one semester in 2017, the newspaper reported.
Wendy Rittenhouse sat down for a televised interview in which she defended her son, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
“They need to watch the video,” Wendy Rittenhouse said of the people who criticize her son. “He’s not a monster.”
“The last text I sent Kyle was, ‘Where are you at? Are you okay?’ He said, ‘Yes, I am okay. Doing medic.’ That was at like 11:30 and then I fell asleep,” his mother said. “Then I jolted out of my sleep and knew something was wrong. I knew I had to go find him.”
She continued, “If he didn’t have that gun, he would have been dead,” Wendy Rittenhouse said. “Point-blank. It was all self-defense. I saw it. If I wasn’t his mother, I would have said the same thing – it was self-defense. He was chased by a bunch of mob.”
She added, “People need just to watch a video. And they need to go step by step on it. He didn’t, he didn’t do nothing wrong. He was attacked by a mob. The first guy to the second and to the third guy.”
“The police should have helped the businesses out instead of having a 17-year-old kid helping. The police should have been involved with these people that lost their businesses. They should have stepped up,” Wendy said, according to KBTX3.
5. Photos on Wendy Rittenhouse’s Facebook Page Showed Kyle in a Police Cadet Uniform
Photos on Rittenhouse’s mother’s Facebook page show him in what appears to be a police cadet uniform and a firefighter’s uniform. One picture contains the words, “We Back the Blue” and a heart with a thin blue line flag in it.
A now-deleted Facebook post indicates he was part of the Grayslake-Lindenhurst-Hainesville Public Safety Cadet Program in 2017. A photo shows Rittenhouse participating in a program for youths who showed an interest in law enforcement. Heavy has contacted the police department there for comment. The Washington Post reported that he was in a cadet program through the Antioch Fire Department and the Grayslake Police Department and also worked as a YMCA lifeguard.
In 2018, according to the Post, he started a Facebook fundraiser for Humanizing the Badge, a nonprofit to “forge stronger relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Rittenhouse’s TikTok page showed in a now-deleted video that he was in the front row at a January rally for President Donald Trump. “Trump rally!” the caption said. It was one of only two videos on his page. The rally was in Des Moines, Iowa. Rittenhouse worked as a lifeguard at a YMCA, according to Buzzfeed.
Trump’s campaign said he had nothing to do with it. “We’re not responsible for the private conduct of people at our rallies any more than … all the crazy people who have been involved with the Obama/Biden campaigns or other things,” Kellyanne Conway said, according to The Tribune.
On a second TikTok page, according to The Chicago Tribune, Rittenhouse posted a “video of himself firing a semi-automatic rifle at a target.” It appears to match the rifle he carried when the shootings unfolded.
Screenshots from Rittenhouse’s Facebook page, which has now been deleted, show that his profile picture indicated support for Blue Lives Matter. It showed Rittenhouse holding a large weapon with the words “Blue Lives Matter” in a circle around him. His Facebook cover photo showed him with a large weapon. The photos were filled with law enforcement graphics, some honoring fallen officers and others showing a thin blue line flag.
People saved the screenshots of his page before it was taken down.
A photo from the suspect’s Facebook page showed him in a thin blue line flag shirt as far back as 2018, when he would have been around age 15.
Another old photo showed him in camouflage as a young kid.
One photo showed him wearing a large weapon and American flag slippers.
He has open Kenosha County traffic cases from August 19 on accusations of speeding on the freeway and operating without a valid license. Those records also give his address as being in Antioch.
According to Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post, Kyle Rittenhouse “attempted to join the Marine Corps in January, but was disqualified from serving after discussing his options with recruiters.” The military didn’t release the reason for the disqualification.