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Sean Krajacic
Kyle Rittenhouse

Kyle Rittenhouse cleared on all counts in shooting trial, as Biden warns against 'violence'

Rittenhouse claimed the shootings were self-defence.

KYLE RITTENHOUSE, THE American teenager who shot and killed two men and wounded another during protests against police brutality and riots in Wisconsin last year, was acquitted of all charges today.

A jury found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty of reckless and intentional homicide and other charges stemming from the shootings that took place in August 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Rittenhouse, who claimed the shootings were self-defence, sobbed as the verdict was read and sank into his chair. He rushed out of the courtroom after the jury was dismissed.

Rittenhouse testified during the two-week trial that he shot the three men with his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle after being attacked.

President Joe Biden today warned against “violence” in the wake of the acquittal.

Biden acknowledged that the verdict left him and “many Americans feeling angry and concerned,” but said the “jury has spoken” and must be respected.

“I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy,” he said, noting that his team had been in touch with Wisconsin authorities “to prepare for any outcome.”

Prosecutors dismissed the self-defence claim, saying it was the then 17-year-old Rittenhouse who “provoked” the events during a night of unrest in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse faced five charges – one count of intentional homicide, one count of reckless homicide, one count of attempted intentional homicide and two counts of recklessly endangering safety.

The most serious charge — intentional homicide — carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The jury deliberated for four days before delivering a unanimous verdict of not guilty on all counts.

The case drew national attention because it arose from the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations that swept the country last year.

Civil unrest erupted in Kenosha, a city of 100,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan, in August 2020 after a white policeman shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, several times during an arrest, leaving him paralyzed.

In right-wing and pro-gun circles, Rittenhouse, who claimed he went to Kenosha to protect businesses from arsonists and looters and act as a medic, was painted as a heroic figure.


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was among the first to react to the verdict, calling it “disgusting.”

“It sends a horrible message to this country,” De Blasio said in a tweet. “To call this a miscarriage of justice is an understatement.”

Republican lawmakers welcomed the not guilty finding.

“Justice has been served,” said Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. “I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild.”

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers put 500 members of the state National Guard on standby in the event of trouble following the verdict.

“Self-Defence is an inherent right inside of your home AND outside of your home,” said Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York.

Testifying in court, Rittenhouse said he “didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I defended myself,” he said. “I did not intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me.”

Prosecutors said Rittenhouse – who lived in the neighbouring state of Illinois – had come to Kenosha as a self-appointed “junior policeman” and “made a series of reckless decisions.”

“Nobody asked him to do that,” prosecutor Thomas Binger said. “Nobody deputised him.”

Defence attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse “didn’t shoot at anyone until he was chased and cornered.”

“Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle — one with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with a gun,” he said.

Rittenhouse, had faced life in prison if he had been convicted as charged for using an AR-style semi-automatic rifle to kill two men and wound a third during a night of protests against racial injustice in Kenosha in the summer of 2020.

He had testified he acted in self-defence, while prosecutors argued he provoked the violence, and the case has become a flashpoint in the US debate over guns, racial-justice protests, vigilantism and law and order.

Rittenhouse was 17 when he went Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois, in what he said was an effort to protect property from rioters in the days after a black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by a white Kenosha police officer.

In a fast-moving series of clashes in the streets, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28.

© AFP 2021