In August of 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old caucasian boy, shot 3 people (2 of whom died) during the protests in Kenosha; the protests were sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake and were part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rittenhouse had traveled from Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, armed with an AR-15 to “protect” private property and a business there. During the protest, he ended up firing his gun 4 times at first, shooting a man in the head, he then continued to fire 4 more shots. Through the commotion, it was unclear how many total shots Rittenhouse fired but at least 16 shots were heard by many sources according to the New York Times. Rittenhouse faced 6 counts total which included first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. These charges would have resulted in a maximum sentence of life in prison if Rittenhouse was found guilty.
Judge Bruce Schroeder of Kenosha County Circuit Court was presiding over the trial. Schroeder reiterated that the word “victim” may not be used when referring to those who were killed or injured due to Rittenhouse’s shooting spree. He instead said he would allow terms such as “looters” and “rioters” to be used. Schroeder also decided to dismiss the 6th count: possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
Throughout the trial, Rittenhouse restated his claim that all shots he fired were fired out of “self-defense.” Though, during the cross-examination, Rittenhouse admitted that he knew the first person he shot, a man named Joseph Rosenbaum, was unarmed yet he still decided to shoot Rosenbaum a total of 4 times. Rosenbaum had provoked Rittenhouse by acting “belligerently” and throwing a plastic bag at him and in response, Rittenhouse pointed his semi-automatic rifle at him. This created the chaos that ensued shortly after as the crowd including Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse and attempted to take the rifle from him. Rittenhouse claimed that if Rosenbaum had gotten possession of the weapon, he would have killed Rittenhouse. Gaige Grosskreutz, the only survivor of the 3 people Rittenhosue shot, testified as a witness. When asked what was going through his mind amid the chaos, Grosskreutz claimed he thought he was “going to die.”
The trial went on for 2 weeks, the majority of it consisting of testimony and evidence. After the closing arguments had been presented, jurors discussed for about 27 hours throughout a 4-day period before announcing the verdict: Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all 5 counts.
After the verdict was announced, Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Mark Richards spoke to reporters outside the courthouse. “He has a huge sense of relief for what the jury did to him today. He wishes none of this would have ever happened, but as he said when he testified, he did not start this,” Richards told the cameras. The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office had a different view, expressing their disappointment with the final verdict. They also urged citizens to express their feelings and opinion on the trial civilly and peacefully.