KENOSHA, Wis. (NewsNation now) – Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and four other charges in connection with fatal shootings in Wisconsin last year.
The jury returned with its verdict after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation.
Rittenhouse, 18, could have received life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charges against him.
He was charged with murder, attempted murder and ruthlessly endangering security by killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-like semi-automatic rifle.
The shootings took place during a night of protests over police violence against blacks in the tumultuous summer of 2020. Rittenhouse is white, as are those he shot. The jury appeared to be overwhelmingly white.
Riots broke out in Kenosha in August 2020 over shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, of a white Kenosha police officer. Protests after the Blake shooting became violent and destructive at times, with rioters setting fire and ransacking businesses.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, went to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic weapon and a medical bag in what the former police and firefighter injured said was an attempt to protect property.
Just before midnight, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum as Rosenbaum chased him across a parking lot. As Rittenhouse fled the scene, one in the crowd tried to kick him in the face, and Anthony Huber swung his skateboard toward him, coming in contact with Rittenhouse’s head and neck. Rittenhouse shot Huber deadly. Moments later, Gaige Grosskreutz ran up to him with a gun. Rittenhouse shot him in the arm; Grosskreutz survived.
Prosecutors portrayed Rittenhouse as the instigator of the three shootings, while his lawyer says Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
The case divided the Americans over whether Rittenhouse was a patriot who took a stand against lawlessness or a vigilance.
The verdict came after a dramatic lawsuit in which the defense demanded a lawsuit over what they claimed were questions the chief prosecutor asked Rittenhouse. The two-week testimony ended when Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a charge of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18, a misdemeanor that appeared to be among the most likely of the charges to result in a conviction. It provides up to nine months in prison.
The defense argued that Wisconsin law has an exception related to the length of a gun barrel. After prosecutors admitted that Rittenhouse’s rifle was not short-circuited, the judge dismissed the charge.
In a bet, Rittenhouse testified in his trial and sobbed in a place so hard at one point that the judge called a pause and said, “I was not doing anything wrong. I was defending myself.” Prosecutors, in turn, tried to portray him as an inexperienced teenager who misrepresented his age and medical education to other armed civilians in his group on the night of the shootings.