Jury acquits young man who shot two men to death in US racial protest

A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse this Friday (19) of all charges related to the fatal shots to two men and injuries of a third party with a semi-automatic rifle during protests for racial justice 2020 in Wisconsin, United States. The court found that the boy – he was 17 at the time – acted in self-defence.

A 12-member jury found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty of two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and two counts of recklessly putting security at street protests marred by arson, riot and looting on Aug. 25 2020 in the city of Kenosha.

Rittenhouse began to sob after the verdict. The youth’s judgment polarized America, highlighting the open divisions in US society over contentious issues such as gun rights.

Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and fired a bullet that took a chunk out of the arm of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28.

Before reaching its verdicts after more than three days of deliberation, the jury followed dubious narratives from the defense and the prosecution that offered very different portrayals of the teenager’s actions on the night of the shooting.

The defense argued that Rittenhouse had been attacked repeatedly and shot the men fearing for his life. They said he was a civic-minded teenager who had been to Kenosha to protect private property after several nights of unrest in Milwaukee’s southern city.

The demonstrations took place after police shot the black man Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed from the waist down.

Protests against racism and police brutality had increased in many US cities after the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis three months before the shooting in Kenosha.

The prosecution, led by prosecutor Thomas Binger, portrayed Rittenhouse as a reckless assailant who sparked the violent encounters and showed no remorse for the men he shot with his AR-15 rifle. Also noted that he was the one to kill someone that night.

Broadcast live and dissected by cable TV experts daily, the trial unfolded during a period of social and political polarization in the United States. Gun rights are valued by many Americans and are enshrined in the US Constitution, even as the nation experiences high levels of gun violence and the easy availability of firearms.

Rittenhouse, who testified that he had no choice but to open fire to protect himself, is seen as heroic by some conservatives who advocate expanding gun rights and consider the shootings justified. Many on the left see Rittenhouse as the personification of an out-of-control American gun culture.

Few basic facts were in dispute. Instead, the judgment focused on whether Rittenhouse acted reasonably to avoid “imminent death or major bodily harm,” the Wisconsin law requirement for the use of lethal force.

metal coated bullets

Rittenhouse’s gun was loaded with 30 metal-coated bullets designed to penetrate the target. The jury watched a series of graphic videos, including the moments after Rittenhouse fired four shots at Rosenbaum, who was immobile, bleeding and moaning. Another video showed Grosskreutz screaming, blood gushing from his arm.

Rittenhouse testified in his own defense last Wednesday at the most dramatic moment of the trial — a risky decision for his lawyers, given his youth and the prospect of tough interrogation at the prosecution.

He started to sob, but emphasized that he only shot men after being attacked. “I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me,” he said.

Rittenhouse testified that he shot Rosenbaum after the man chased him and grabbed his gun.

He also testified that he shot Huber after he hit him with a skateboard and pulled out his gun. He said he shot Grosskreutz after the man aimed the pistol he was carrying at the teenager — a claim Grosskreutz recognized under cross-examination by the defense.