Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts in trial over the shooting of Kenosha

Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges Friday after he defended himself in the fatal shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which has become a flashpoint in the debate over guns, vigilance and racial injustice.

Rittenhouse, 18, began to choke, fell forward toward the defense table and then hugged one of his attorneys when he heard a court clerk read “not guilty” five times. The deputy mayor immediately pulled him out the back door.

“He wants to get on with his life,” defense attorney Mark Richards said. “He has a great sense of relief at what the jury did to him today. He wishes none of this ever happened. But as he said when he testified, he didn’t start it.”

The verdict in the politically volatile case was met with anger and disappointment from those who saw Rittenhouse as a vigilante vigilante and wishful policeman, and a mitigation and acquittal from those who viewed him as a patriot who wanted to stop lawlessness and exercised his Second Amendment right to bear arms and defend himself. His supporters donated more than US$2 million for his legal defense.

Kyle Rittenhouse responded to the ruling in his trial in Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Friday. Rittenhouse, 18, was acquitted of all charges after she defended herself in the fatal shooting of Kenosha that has become a flashpoint in the nation’s debate over guns, vigilance and racial injustice. (Shawn Krajac/Reuters)

Reverend Jesse Jackson, a longtime civil rights leader, said the ruling casts doubt on the safety of people protesting in support of black Americans.

“It seems to me that it is an open season for human rights protesters,” he said.

Rittenhouse is charged with murder, attempted murder and reckless safety endangerment for the murders of two men – Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Hopper – and the wounding of a third, Gaige Grosskreutz – with an AR semi-automatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a tumultuous night of protests over the shooting of the man by a white Kenosha police officer. Black Jacob Blake.

Justin Blake, left, uncle of Jacob Blake, listens to the verdict being read outside Kenosha County Courthouse on Friday. The shooting of Jacob Blake led to several nights of protests, unrest, and eventually the fatal shooting perpetrated by Rittenhouse. (Paul Sancia/The Associated Press)

Rittenhouse, who was 17 and a former young police student, said he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters. He is white, like those he shot.

The jury, whose racial makeup the court did not reveal but appeared to be predominantly white, deliberated nearly three and a half days.

calls for calm

US President Joe Biden called for calm, saying that while the outcome of the case “will leave many Americans feeling angry and anxious, including myself, we must admit that the jury has spoken.”

Former President Donald Trump, who at the time of the shooting apparently said Rittenhouse had been “attacked very violently,” released a statement Friday congratulating Rittenhouse on the verdict, saying, “If this isn’t self-defence, then nothing!”

Rittenhouse could have been sentenced to life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charge, first-degree murder, or what some other states call first-degree murder. Two other counts, each of over 60 years behind bars.

Rittenhouse supporters are seen in front of Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha on Friday. (Rendan McDermid/Reuters)

Michael Gravelli, the Kenosha District Attorney, said his office respected the jury’s decision, and asked the public to “accept the verdicts peacefully and not resort to violence.”

Before the sentencing, Democratic Governor Tony Evers announced last week that 500 National Guard personnel are standing by in case of problems after the ruling.

During the jury’s release, Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder assured them that the court would take “all measures” to keep them safe.

deep split

Wisconsin Lieutenant Mandela Barnes, a black and Democratic candidate for the US Senate, denounced the result. He, like many civil rights activists, has seen racial double standards working on the case.

“Over the past few weeks, many have been fearful of the outcome we just saw,” Barnes said. “The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is what we should expect from our judicial system, but this standard is not always applied equally. We have seen a large number of young blacks and browns murdered, only to be tried after their death, while the innocence of the judge is practically requested by Kyle Rittenhouse.”

Meanwhile, other right-wing political figures welcomed the ruling and condemned the case against Rittenhouse.

Mark McCluskey, who got into trouble with the law when he and his wife waved a rifle and pistol at protesters marching in front of his St. Louis, Missouri, home, in 2020, said the ruling shows that people really do. To defend themselves from the “mobs”. He is now a Republican candidate for the US Senate in Missouri.

Fifteen minutes after the rulings were passed, the National Rifle Association tweeted the text of the Second Amendment.

The Kenosha case was part of an unusual confluence of trials that reflected the deep division over race in the United States: in Georgia, three white men are on trial for the murder of Ahmed Arbery, while in Virginia, a trial is taking place in a lawsuit during the deadly white supremacy rally in Charlottesville in year 2017.

The bloodshed in Kenosha occurred during a summer of sometimes violent protests, which erupted across the United States through the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other instances of police use of force against blacks.

I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself

Rittenhouse went to Kenosha from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, after businesses were looted and burned in the nights following the shooting of Blake. Rittenhouse carried a weapon that authorities said was illegally purchased for the underage boy to join other armed civilians on the streets.

Bystander and a drone captured most of the frenzied chain of events that followed: Rittenhouse murdered Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, then protester Anthony Hopper, 26, and protester Gigi Grosskreutz, now 28, injured.

A picture of an armed Rittenhouse in Kenosha in August 2020. (Adam Rogan/Journal Times via Associated Press)

Prosecutors portrayed Rittenhouse as a “wishful soldier” who went out looking for trouble that night and was responsible for creating a dangerous situation in the first place by aiming his rifle at the protesters.

Rittenhouse testified, “I did nothing wrong. I stood up for myself.”

He burst into tears at one point, telling a jury that he opened fire after Rosenbaum chased after him and grabbed his gun. He said he was afraid that his gun would be confiscated and used to kill him.

Watch | Rittenhouse stands on plea for self-defense during a murder trial:

Kyle Rittenhouse stands by plea for self-defense during his murder trial

Standing on his defense at a murder trial, Kyle Rittenhouse broke down describing why he shot two unarmed men with an assault rifle during a protest over the police shooting in Kenosha, Whisk, in 2020. 2:31

Hopper was then killed after hitting Rittenhouse in the head or neck with a skateboard, and Grosskreutz was shot after aiming his gun at Rittenhouse.

Under questioning by the prosecution, Grosskreutz said he raised his hands when he approached Rittenhouse and did not intend to shoot the young man. Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked Grosskreutz why he didn’t shoot first.

“That’s not the kind of person I am. That’s not why I’m there,” he said. “That’s not who I am. And definitely not someone I want to become.”

Gaige Grosskreutz testifies during the Rittenhouse trial on November 8. (Mark Hertzberg/Paul/The Associated Press)

But during cross-examination, Rittenhouse defense attorney Cory Chiravese asked, “It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, and walked up to him, that he shot, wasn’t it?”

“Right,” Grosskreutz replied. The defense also provided a photo showing Grosskreutz aiming the rifle at Rittenhouse, who was on the ground with his rifle pointed at Grosskreutz.

Grosskreutz, under questioning from the attorney general, said he had not intended to point his gun at Rittenhouse.

From left: Karan Swart, fiancée of Joseph Rosembaum; Susan Hogg, Anthony Hopper’s great-aunt; And Hannah Glings, girlfriend of Anthony Hopper, responds to the verdict. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP)

After the ruling, Hopper’s parents, Karen Bloom and John Hooper, said the result “sends an unacceptable message that armed civilians can appear in any town, foment violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”

And Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, who was seated near her son on a bench in the courtroom, gasped with joy, cried and hugged the others around her.

Richards, the defense attorney, said Rittenhouse wants to become a nurse and do PTSD counseling and is likely to move away because it is “too dangerous” for him to continue living in the area.

Rittenhouse hugs one of his lawyers, Cory Chiravese. (Shawn Krajac/Reuters)

Several legal experts said they believed the defense had an advantage due to Rittenhouse’s favorable provisions in Wisconsin’s self-defense law and video showing him being chased at crucial moments. The testimonies of some prosecution witnesses also appear to support his claim of self-defence.

Witnesses described Rosenbaum as “overly aggressive” and said he dared shoot him and threatened to kill Rittenhouse earlier that night. A videographer testified that Rosenbaum lunged at the gun before being shot, and the pathologist said his injuries appeared to indicate that his hand was on top of the barrel.

Rosenbaum’s fiancée also revealed that he was taking medication for bipolar disorder and depression. Rittenhouse’s lawyers called Rosenbaum a “crazy person”.

A protester outside Kenosha County Courthouse on Monday holds a sign with pictures of the men called Rittenhouse. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Rittenhouse was also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18, a misdemeanor that appeared likely to result in a conviction. But the judge dismissed that charge before jury deliberations after the defense argued that Wisconsin law did not apply to the long-barreled rifle Rittenhouse used.

The rulings end the criminal case against Rittenhouse. He faces no federal charges and is unlikely to do so because federal law applies only in very limited cases to murders. No civil lawsuit has been filed against Rittenhouse yet, but there are lawsuits targeting others.

Hopper’s father is suing police and government officials in Kenosha alleging that they allowed a dangerous situation that led to his son’s death. A group of protesters has filed a lawsuit against the city and prefecture of Kenosha alleging that curfews are being enforced against them but not against gunmen like Rittenhouse.

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