Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager who shot three people, killing two of them, during Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Kenosha, was found not guilty of all the charges against him on Friday.
The Kenosha County jury in the Rittenhouse murder trial found that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz after travelling to Kenosha from Illinois and posting himself at a used car lot, which he said he was defending from vandalism, with an AR-15-style rifle on Aug. 25, 2020.
Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz were in Kenosha along with hundreds of demonstrators during days of protest against the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer.
The jury deliberated for four days, after hearing eight days of testimony, before reaching its decision Friday morning. Jurors were instructed by the judge to set aside the social and political upheaval surrounding the case and consider only whether Rittenhouse believed his life was in danger when he shot the three men.
Gov. Tony Evers activated the National Guard to be ready to help the city in the event of unrest after the jury announced its verdict.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is running for U.S. Senate, issued a statement from his campaign account immediately after the verdict, saying, “Over the last few weeks, many dreaded the outcome we just witnessed. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is what we should expect from our judicial system, but that standard is not always applied equally. We have seen so many black and brown youth killed, only to be put on trial posthumously, while the innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse was virtually demanded by the judge.”
“Despite Kyle Rittenhouse’s conscious decision to take the lives of two people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, he was not held responsible for his actions, something that is not surprising,” Shaadie Ali, interim executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “But Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t the only one responsible for the deaths that night. The events in Kenosha stem from the deep roots of white supremacy in our society’s institutions. They underscore that the police do not protect communities of color in the same way they do white people.”
Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Movement Politics Director JoAnna Bautch called the verdict a “travesty.”
“Kyle Rittenhouse crossed state lines to come to Wisconsin with the intent to infiltrate a peaceful protest organized by leaders and residents in Kenosha calling for racial justice. He did not come to help the community,” Bautch said in a statement released by Citizen Action. “He waved a gun in the face of people exercising their First Amendment rights. He came with support from white nationalist groups to incite violence and intimidate Wisconsinites — Black, white, and Brown — to keep us from speaking out. In his attempts to stop people from exercising their rights, he shot and killed two innocent men, and harmed another.”
Rittenhouse, now 18, was charged with five felonies:
- First-degree intentional homicide
- First-degree reckless homicide
- Attempted first-degree intentional homicide
- Two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety
A misdemeanor weapons possession charge was dismissed by Judge Bruce Schroeder before the jury began its deliberations, after the defense successfully argued that Wisconsin law allowed Rittenhouse to possess the AR-15 he carried in Kenosha since it was not short-barreled.
Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner.