Jury acquits U.S. teen shooter Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges
KENOSHA — A jury acquitted teenager Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests in a decision that re-ignited fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self defence in the United States.
Jurors found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty on all charges: two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide for wounding a third man, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in protests marred by arson, rioting and looting on Aug. 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse broke down sobbing after the verdict and collapsed to the floor before being helped back into his chair, his hands shaking. His mother also wept.
Amid a heavy law enforcement presence, several dozen protesters lined the steps outside the courthouse after the verdict was read, some carrying placards in support of Rittenhouse and others expressing disappointment. By early evening, the crowd had thinned to a handful of people and there was no sign of disturbances in the city.
“We are all so very happy that Kyle can live his life as a free and innocent man, but in this whole situation there are no winners, there are two people who lost their lives and that’s not lost on us at all,” David Hancock, a spokesperson for the Rittenhouse family, told Reuters.
Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and fired a bullet that tore a chunk off the arm of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28. Rittenhouse claimed self defence.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who during last year’s election campaign tweeted a video that appeared to link Rittenhouse to white supremacists, said on Friday he supported the jury’s decision and urged Americans to react with calm.
“While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken,” Biden said.
Elsewhere reactions showed the country’s deep partisan divisions. The verdict was greeted with outrage by many on the political left and celebrated by gun rights supporters.
“It is unconscionable our justice system would allow an armed vigilante … to go free,” the Congressional Black Caucus said in a statement.
The thorny issue of race also hung over the case, although Rittenhouse and the men he shot were all white. Some Black activists said on Friday the U.S. police and courts would have treated the teenager more harshly if he had been Black.
But conservatives saw the verdict as a validation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which grants Americans the right to bear arms.
U.S. congressman Madison Cawthorn, a Republican representative from North Carolina, said on Instagram: “Kyle Rittenhouse is not guilty my friends. You have a right to defend yourselves. Be armed, be dangerous and be moral.”