Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of all five counts on Friday for fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during a tense protest last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in a case that polarized many Americans, with some on the right casting Rittenhouse as righteous while others others on the left saw him as a violent vigilante.
After more than three days of deliberations, jurors found Rittenhouse not guilty of intentional homicide and reckless homicide for killing Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, respectively.
Prosecutors initially charged Rittenhouse with two other smaller offenses, but Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed them. The judge removed a minor charge for violating a city-imposed curfew due to insufficient evidence, and he tossed out a misdemeanor charge for being a minor in possession of a dangerous weapon after defense attorneys argued the law only applies to short-barreled guns, not the AR15-style rifle used by Rittenhouse.
In August 2020, then-17-year-old Rittenhouse traveled about 20 miles to Kenosha with a rifle and medic kit, claiming he intended to protect a local business amid protests over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. He ultimately shot Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz in a set of chaotic moments at the protest, and pleaded not guilty to homicide. Rittenhouse’s attorneys acknowledged during the trial the case isn’t a “whodunit,” but argued their client feared for his life and acted in self-defense: They said Rosenbaum threatened Rittenhouse and tried to take his gun, Huber struck his neck with a skateboard and reached for the rifle, and Grosskreutz pointed a gun. Meanwhile, prosecutors painted Rittenhouse as an inexperienced vigilante and “wannabe soldier” whose presence in Kenosha was unsolicited and unhelpful: They argued he didn’t need to fire repeatedly at Rosenbaum, and say he provoked the subsequent violence by appearing to be an active shooter.
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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) placed 500 National Guard troops on active duty last week, offering to deploy them to the Kenosha area if local law enforcement asks for help following the verdict. He also called for calm: “I urge folks who are otherwise not from the area to please respect the community by reconsidering any plans to travel there and encourage those who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to do so safely and peacefully,” Evers wrote in a statement Friday.