On August 27 2020, amid algorithmically-charged discourse about teenaged shooting suspect Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, rumors on Facebook and Twitter appeared with claims that Rittenhouse’s father was “Deputy Rittenhouse” of the Kenosha Sheriff’s Department:
In the first post above, from Facebook, somebody wrote:
Wondering about Kyle Rittenhouse’s father? Call the Kenosha Sheriff’s Dept and ask for Deputy Rittenhouse.
In a Twitter reply above, a separate account asked:
Wondering about Kyle Rittenhouse’s father? Call the Kenosha Sheriff’s Dept and ask Deputy Rittenhouse?
Another reply made the same claim:
The father of this terrorist is Deputy Rittenhouse.
— Barin Nelyse, PhD (@BarinNelyse) August 28, 2020
Kyle Rittenhouse and the August 25 2020 Kenosha Shooting
As of August 28 2020, most social media users were familiar with Kyle Rittenhouse’s name.
He came to national attention during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha in August 2020. Rittenhouse was arrested and charged after allegedly shooting three protesters, killing two of them:
Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old from Illinois, was captured on video seconds after the first of two fatal shootings [on August 25 2020] during the third straight night of unrest in Kenosha over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. Still, questions remain surrounding Rittenhouse’s presence at the protests and the moments leading up the gunfire.
In a video on social media, Rittenhouse, seen carrying a semi-automatic rifle, appears to say he “just killed somebody” while jogging away from a man who had just been fatally shot in the head.
Rittenhouse, of Antioch, faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, among others, following the shooting, which took place amid turmoil after a Kenosha police officer shot Blake seven times in the back [August 23 2020], potentially paralyzing him. Rittenhouse was taken into custody in Lake County, Illinois, [on August 26 2020] and is scheduled for an extradition hearing on [August 28 2020]. He was officially charged [on August 27 2020].
Video of an individual believed to be Rittenhouse, captured in the course of the chaotic incident, circulated on Twitter:
A crowd chases a suspected shooter down in Kenosha. He trips and falls, then turns with the gun and fires several times. Shots can be heard fired elsewhere as well, corroborating reports of multiple shooters tonight #Kenosha #KenoshaRiots pic.twitter.com/qqsYWmngFW
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) August 26, 2020
Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, has been mentioned in much of the extensive reporting on the shooting and her son’s arrest. The Washington Post reported on August 27 2020 that Wendy and Kyle Rittenhouse lived in Antioch, Illinois at the time of the incident:
Before the deadly shooting, Rittenhouse lived with his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, a single mom and nurse’s assistant, in a quiet apartment complex beside a park in Antioch, a bedroom community that sits just south of the Wisconsin border.
According to court records reviewed by the Chicago Tribune, Wendy Rittenhouse sought an order of protection from police in January 2017, claiming that a classmate of her son’s had been threatening him and calling him “dumb” and “stupid.” The Washington Post was unable to reach her for comment.
Mention of her attempt to obtain a protection order appeared in multiple articles, but little else was known about Rittenhouse’s family. His father was not mentioned in any reporting we located.
Kyle and Wendy Rittenhouse did not live in Kenosha at the time of the shooting; they were residents of nearby Antioch.
Call the Kenosha Sheriff’s Dept. and Ask for Deputy Rittenhouse
We called the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department on August 28 2020 to ask about the rumor. However, no one was available for comment; we sent an email as well, but we have not yet received a response.
On the Kenosha County website, a “Sheriff” section provided information about the Department. A page on that site, “Administration (Home > Departments > Sheriff > Administration),” included information about Sheriff David G. Beth, as well as Chief Deputy Marc Levin.
Levin’s portion showed that he was elevated to the position of Chief Deputy in 2017:
Chief Deputy Marc Levin was hired as by the Department in July of 1990. In 2001 he was promoted to Sergeant after working for 11 years as a patrol deputy on all three shifts. As a Sergeant, Levin supervised first and third shift patrol until 2011 when he was promoted to Lieutenant and was in command of the Conveyance Bureau and a member of the Courthouse Security Advisory Committee.
Levin was then promoted to the rank of Captain in 2015. Captain Levin commanded the Detentions Division overseeing the Kenosha County Detention Center and the Kenosha County Jail Pre-trial Facility. There he was responsible for over 200 full and part-time staff members.
Chief Deputy Levin holds a bachelor Degree from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee majoring in Criminal Justice.
On January 4, 2017 Levin was promoted for the fourth time to the rank of Chief Deputy where he serves as second in command of the entire Kenosha Sheriff’s Department and is charged with administrating daily operations.
No mention of a “Deputy Rittenhouse” appeared on the “Administration” page of the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department. Neither was the page hastily changed in the wake of Rittenhouse’s identification and arrest — it was most recently archived in March 2020, and the content was identical when we accessed it on August 28 2020.
A search for “Rittenhouse” across the entire site yielded no results on August 28 2020. Finally, a “Staff” page (Home >Staff Directory) did not mention anyone named Rittenhouse in the Kenosha Country Sheriff’s Department’s employ. Again, that page was most recently archived in March 2020, and no one with the surname “Rittenhouse” was scrubbed from the page in August 2020.
We replicated our searches on the City of Kenosha’s website, yielding no results for “Rittenhouse.” August 28 2020 reporting on Kenosha’s Sheriff typically referenced Kenosha County, not the City of Kenosha. The only result for a “Deputy” on the City of Kenosha’s website referred to a Deputy of Human Resources.
A number of social media posts advised social media users to “call the Kenosha Sheriff’s Department and ask for Deputy Rittenhouse,” a directive we attempted to follow to verify the claim. Although we were unable to make contact by phone, we did send an email. Moreover, both the “Administration” and “Staff” pages for Kenosha County and City yielded no results for the name “Rittenhouse.” None of the posts provided evidence; due to the lack of any supporting evidence and extensive evidence showing otherwise but given the difficulty of proving negatives, we currently rate this claim as Unknown.