Kyle Rittenhouse has been found not guilty for the shooting and killing of two men, and the injuring of a third, by a Wisconsin jury.
Rittenhouse broke down in tears and hugged one of his defense attorneys as the court clerk read out the fifth and final “not guilty” verdict.
After four days and over 25 hours of deliberation, the jury returned to the Kenosha, Wisconsin, courthouse on Friday to read out the fate of the teenager who killed two and injured a third in a shooting last summer. Rittenhouse, dressed in a dark blue suit, watched pensively as the jury read out his fate. Family members and loved ones of those he killed also populated the courtroom.
Before the verdict was read Judge Bruce Schroeder told the courtroom that he didn’t want any reaction to the jury’s decision. He warned the crowd that if there was a large reaction, there were plenty of county sheriffs in the room.
“You will be whisked out of here if you do anything,” he said.
Rittenhouse, now 18, faced charges of first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of reckless endangerment of safety after shooting and killing two men in August 2020 during protests against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse killed two men and shot and maimed a third with an AR-15 after going to Kenosha to protect a car dealership he thought could be harmed during the protests. Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum after the man chased him in a parking lot during a confrontation—it’s alleged Rosenbaum reached for the rifle.
Rittenhouse fled the scene and claimed he was going to turn himself in to police when he was confronted by a group of people on a nearby street. He fell and was attacked on the ground by people trying to disarm him. He shot and killed Anthony Huber, who hit him several times with a skateboard, and also shot Gaige Grosskreutz, who was advancing on him with a pistol, in the arm. Grosskreutz testified he thought Rittenhouse was an active shooter.
This trial has been incredibly polarizing for the U.S. On the left, Rittenhouse is seen as a vigilante out looking for blood in Kenosha that evening and a representation of U.S. gun culture run amok. On the right, he’s viewed as a teenager forced into a position where he had to draw blood in self-defense and was unfairly charged by an overly aggressive prosecution. In some far-right corners, Rittenhouse is actively treated as a hero.
The prosecution painted Rittenhouse as an instigator who traveled to Kenosha as a “chaos tourist” and instigated the events and killed without remorse whereas the defense portrayed him as a community-minded young man who was forced to kill in self-defense.
The jury deliberated for over four days as the news media and protestors gathered in Kenosha. The scene outside of the courtroom has been tense; people showed up to show support for both a conviction and an acquittal. At times the two sides got heated and screamed at each other. On Thursday, local police officers put out coffee and cookies on Thursday in the hopes of placating the crowd. Despite the cookies, police have arrested two people for disorderly conduct.
One man who attended in support of Rittenhouse, and has been identified as a fired Fergason police officer, showed up at the protests with a rifle on Wednesday. On Thursday, the same man showed up but was brandishing a large black sex toy instead of a rifle.
While the jury were locked away deliberating, there was still activity in the courtroom. On Wednesday, the defense pushed at first for a mistrial with prejudice, which means the trial couldn’t be retried, but eventually asked for a general mistrial over the prosecution mishandling video; Schroeder said he was going to wait to rule on these.
Anticipating civil unrest following the trial, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers has asked for 500 National Guard troops to remain on standby in Kenosha.
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