The Trial of Kyle Rittenhouse

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Mr. Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges after standing trial in the shootings of three men, two of whom died, in the aftermath of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020.

Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 18-year-old from Antioch, Ill., was acquitted on all charges in his trial on Nov. 19 for the shootings of three white men, two of whom died, in the aftermath of demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020. Before reaching its decision, the jury deliberated for more than three days.

Protests erupted in Kenosha on August 23, 2020, after Rusten Sheskey, a white Kenosha police officer, shot and wounded Jacob Blake, a Black man. The incident was captured on cell phone video and occurred just months after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests about police abuse of Black Americans.

In the days following the police shooting, Kenosha, a former industrial hub of 100,000 people on Lake Michigan's western shore, saw widespread looting, arson, and property destruction. Mr. Rittenhouse's shootings, which he claims were in self-defence, occurred on the third night of protests.

Mr. Rittenhouse was charged with six counts, including homicide. One of the charges, a misdemeanour weapons charge, was dropped near the end of the trial, and Mr. Rittenhouse was acquitted on all of the others. This is what happened in the case.


Who is Kyle Rittenhouse?

Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the protests over Mr. Blake's shooting and lived with his mother in Antioch, a small town in Illinois just across the Wisconsin border.

Long before the shooting, he had been posting on social media in support of the police and Blue Lives Matter. Mr. Rittenhouse had also participated in a program for young aspiring police officers as a cadet.

Despite living in a different state, he had some ties to Kenosha: his father lived in the city, and Mr. Rittenhouse had worked as a lifeguard in Kenosha County.

He also kept an armed services semiautomatic weapon in Wisconsin, which the police said was bought for him by a friend.

Mr. Rittenhouse was in Kenosha for what reason?

Mr. Rittenhouse had been following the news of Mr. Blake's shooting, which occurred when officers arrived at an apartment in response to a domestic complaint and attempted to arrest Mr. Blake, who is Black. Officer Sheskey, a white officer, grabbed Mr. Blake, who was holding a knife, and fired seven times into his back, leaving him crumpled on the ground.

The shooting sparked immediate protests in Kenosha. On the second night of protests, several blocks of businesses were looted and burned down in the city's downtown and Uptown neighbourhoods.

The destruction triggered a reaction from some gun-owning residents of Kenosha and beyond.

They grouped together on Facebook, vowing to protect the city and assist the police and National Guard, who appeared outnumbered.

By the 3rd night of the protests, Mr. Rittenhouse had already joined a group of armed men who said they were only there to protect businesses.

"Part of my job is also to protect people," Mr. Rittenhouse said in an interview with The Daily Caller on the evening of the fatal shootings. "If someone is hurt, I'm going to put myself in danger." That's why I have my rifle; I obviously need to protect myself. But I also have my first aid kit."

Wisconsin is an open-carry state, which means that legal firearms can be carried in public without a permit unless they are otherwise prohibited from possessing them. However, with the exception of hunting, minors are not permitted to carry weapons in public.


What occurred that night?

By the early evening of Tuesday, Aug. 25, protests had engulfed Civic Center Park in Kenosha's downtown, directly across from the heavily barricaded courthouse, which was defended by police officers and National Guard members.

The night had an unruly feel to it, with men riding motorcycles through groups of protesters, and others dressed as soldiers, wearing camouflage and carrying rifles with ammunition strapped to their chests.

The men claimed to be members of a Kenosha militia, self-appointed to protect the city from harm.

Protesters of the police shooting threw fireworks and water bottles at officers, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets during hours of demonstrations. Protesters were eventually escorted out of Civic Center Park and down Sheridan Road, one of Kenosha's main thoroughfares lined with stores, gas stations, churches, and a hospital.

By late evening, the majority of the protesters had left the area. However, some people remained on Sheridan Road, occasionally scuffling and arguing with a group of several dozen people who claimed to be defending the city.

Mr. Rittenhouse was seen on video that night milling around and offering medical assistance to protesters. Shortly before midnight, he was pursued into the parking lot of a car dealership by Joseph Rosenbaum, who had come downtown that night and joined the crowd.

A man nearby fired a handgun into the air as Mr. Rittenhouse ran into the parking lot. Mr. Rittenhouse turned to face the gunfire as Mr. Rosenbaum lunged at him. According to the video, Mr. Rittenhouse then fired four times, striking Mr. Rosenbaum in the head.

Mr. Rittenhouse fled down Sheridan Road, pursued by at least a dozen members of the crowd. In the video, one person can be heard yelling, "That's the shooter!"

Mr. Rittenhouse tripped and fell at one point, then shot at two more people pursuing him ” Anthony Huber, who was killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who was shot in the arm but survived.

Mr. Rittenhouse approached police vehicles with his arms raised, but they drove right past him as they attempted to reach the people who had been shot.


Who was killed or injured?

Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, and Anthony Huber, 26, of Kenosha County, were both killed. Gaige Grosskreutz, a West Allis, Wis., medic, was shot in the arm but survived.

During pretrial hearings, Judge Bruce Schroeder of Kenosha County Circuit Court, who is presiding over the trial, reiterated a longstanding rule in his courtroom on criminal cases: the word "victims" may not be used in reference to those killed or injured before the jury. However, in a blow to the prosecution, he stated that if the defense could establish evidence that Mr. Rosenbaum, Mr. Huber, and Mr. Grosskreutz were engaged in those activities that night, he would allow the terms "looters" and "rioters" to be used to refer to them.


What exactly were the charges?

Mr. Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, among other offenses. If Mr. Rittenhouse had been convicted of the homicide charges, which are equivalent to murder charges in other states, he could have faced a life sentence in prison.

Near the end of the trial, a misdemeanour weapons charge was dropped.

Mr. Rittenhouse became a cause célèbre for some conservatives after he was charged, who praised him for attempting to protect businesses from damage by patrolling downtown Kenosha with a military-style rifle. His $2 million cash bail was raised via online fundraising.

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