(Trends Wide Español) — After several days of deliberation, the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse case reached a verdict. They found him not guilty of all charges.
The charges – which included first-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder – stem from riots that erupted last year in the wake of the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man. Amid the riots and revolt in Kenosha, Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, took up an AR-15-style rifle and joined a group of armed people in the city on August 25, 2020.
Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum – who was chasing the teenager and threw a plastic bag at him – and then attempted to flee the area. A crowd of people chased the teenager, and Rittenhouse shot a stranger who tried to kick him; he fatally shot Anthony Huber, who had hit him with a skateboard, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, who was armed with a pistol.
Rittenhouse took the stand and testified before the jury that he was acting in self-defense. He broke down in tears during testimony as he recounted the shootings during the chaotic night of rioting.
The prosecution tried to show that Rittenhouse acted criminally and recklessly.
The events of that night, almost all captured on video, were barely discussed, but the 12-person jury sided with the 18-year-old, who said he was defending himself.
This happened during the Rittenhouse trial
Prosecutors called 22 witnesses over the course of six days as they sought to show that Rittenhouse acted recklessly that night and provoked Rosenbaum by pointing the rifle at him, triggering the subsequent series of events.
“That’s what triggers this whole incident,” said prosecutor Thomas Binger in closing arguments. “When the accused causes this incident, he loses the right to self-defense. You cannot claim self-defense against a danger that you create.”
The prosecution described the other three people who confronted the teenager as “heroes” trying to stop what they believed to be an active shooting. Binger also questioned the teenager’s decision to bring a gun into town in the first place, calling him a “tourist of chaos.”
However, on the stand, Rittenhouse testified that he was acting in self-defense when he shot Rosenbaum four times, who said he had threatened him before, chased after him, threw a bag at him and pounced on his gun. Rittenhouse also referred to the other three people he shot as part of a “mob” that was chasing him.
He became emotional and burst into tears during his testimony when he began recounting the initial shooting, which led to a breakdown in the case.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse feared for his life when he opened fire.
“Every person they shot was attacking Kyle. One with a skateboard, one with their hands, one with their feet, one with a gun,” Richards said. “Hands and feet can cause great bodily harm.”
The trial featured more than a dozen videos from the night showing what happened before, during and after the shootings. Most of the facts of what happened that night were not debated; rather, at the heart of the judgment was the analysis of Rittenhouse’s actions and whether they can be considered “reasonable.”
The prosecution faced an uphill challenge in the case because Wisconsin law requires the state to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse did not act in self-defense. But there are limits to a self-defense claim.
What happened in Kenosha
In August 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17, wandered the dark streets of Kenosha wearing a backwards baseball cap, a green T-shirt and a long rifle.
That night, protesters took to the streets of Wisconsin city to demand justice after a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back as his children watched from his car. As the 29-year-old black man fought for his life in hospital, people marched in the streets for three days.
At times, protesters and armed civilians clashed, but on the night of August 25 things took a deadly turn.
The teenager got into a fight with protesters near a car dealership and opened fire, allegedly killing two people and wounding a third, according to a criminal complaint.
Rittenhouse was charged with felony murder in connection with the shooting and murder of Anthony M. Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and with attempted felony murder for allegedly wounding Gaige Grosskreutz. He was also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon when he was under the age of 18, a misdemeanor, according to court records.
Trends Wide’s Nikki Carvajal, Faith Karimi, Eric Levenson, Brad Parks, Brian Stelter, Carma Hassan, Amir Vera, Nicole Chavez, Christina Maxouris, Paul P. Murphy, Raja Razek, Brad Parks and Kay Jones contributed to this report.