Kenosha shooting: court finds Rittenhouse not guilty

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Kyle Rittenhouse, charged of shooting two people dead at an anti-racism protest last year have been found not guilty of the charges by a jury after a tumultuous trial.

Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, when he shot them with an assault rifle as he roamed the streets of Kenosha with other armed men acting as a self-described militia during protests in August 2020, after a white police officer shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back.

Claiming self-defense, Rittenhouse had pleaded not guilty to the homicide and attempted homicide charges and also to two charges of recklessly endangering safety, for firing his weapon near others. He was also charged with the illegal possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor, but the judge dropped that count against him during the trial.

The trial was seen as a test case for the US, as it appeared to illustrate contrasting attitudes of law enforcement when confronted with white men or teens who claimed to be acting as vigilante-style informal security personnel, armed with assault rifles, and Black members of the public or those protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The jury in Kenosha, after four days of deliberations, and reaching a unanimous verdict.

The verdicts of not guilty were read for each charge Rittenhouse faced, including for crimes normally classed as murder in most courts but in Wisconsin were charged as intentional homicide, reckless homicide and attempted intentional homicide.

Rittenhouse, now 18, shook as he waited for the verdicts to be read and, after he had been acquitted on all counts, he rushed from the room then later returned and was calmed and offered water by his lawyers as he sobbed and gulped for air.

He was 17 when he came to Kenosha from his home in Illinois in August 2020, and began patrolling the streets, staying out after curfew, with the apparent approval of some of the police officers on duty at the time, who handed out water to the groups of armed civilian men milling about.

They claimed to be protecting property and acting as informal medics and unofficial security after some businesses had been destroyed when demonstrations against the police shooting spilled over on the fringes into violence after dark.

A turning point in the trial came when Grosskreutz testified for the prosecution but admitted that he pointed a gun at Rittenhouse before the 17-year-old fired his rifle, hitting him in the arm. Others testified that Rittenhouse was pursued by the men he shot dead and the teenager, who testified in his own defence, told the jury he was in fear of his life when he fired his gun.

Rittenhouse is white, as were the men he shot. But the case focused attention on questions of racial justice, unequal policing, and firearms rights, often sitting at the heart of America’s increasingly bitter partisan divide.

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