(KENOSHA, Wisc.) — A Wisconsin jury has acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all charges in the killing of two men and the wounding of another during political unrest in Kenosha last summer — a politically charged trial that captivated the nation and some fear empowers vigilantism.
The 18-year-old fell over after hearing the verdict. The jury deliberated roughly 26 hours.
Rittenhouse claimed he shot three men, two fatally, in self-defense during a 2020 protest. Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, were shot and killed, while 27-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz was wounded.
Huber’s parents, Karen Bloom and John Huber, said they’re “heartbroken and angry” by the acquittal.
“Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son,” they said in a statement. “It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”
“No reasonable person viewing all of the evidence could conclude that Mr. Rittenhouse acted in self-defense,” they said. “Mr. Rittenhouse came to Kenosha armed to kill. Kenosha police encouraged him to act violently, and our son is dead as a result.”
Huber’s parents vowed to “fight to hold those responsible for Anthony’s death accountable continues in full force. Neither Mr. Rittenhouse nor the Kenosha police who authorized his bloody rampage will escape justice.”
The attorneys for Grosskreutz and Rosenbaum’s estate said they were still committed to “holding those responsible to account.”
“While today’s verdict may mean justice delayed, it will not mean justice denied,” attorneys Kimberley Motley and Milo Schwab said in a joint statement.
President Joe Biden said in a statement, “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”
He went on, “I remain steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law.”
Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. A charge of violating a curfew that was imposed during the protests in Kenosha was dropped during the trial.
During his testimony, Rittenhouse said he shot all three men with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in self-defense.
“I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” Rittenhouse repeatedly said, at one point breaking down and sobbing on the witness stand.
After the verdict, Wisconsin Gov. Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement, “No verdict will be able to bring back the lives of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, or heal Gaige Grosskreutz’s injuries, just as no verdict can heal the wounds or trauma experienced by Jacob Blake and his family. No ruling today changes our reality in Wisconsin that we have work to do toward equity, accountability, and justice that communities across our state are demanding and deserve.”
Evers added, “We must move forward, together, more united and more motivated to build the sort of future we want for our state—one that is just, one that is equitable, and one where every person has the resources and opportunity to thrive.”
The chaos in Kenosha unfolded on Aug. 25, 2020, after protests erupted over a police officer shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. The protests turned violent, prompting an online call for armed “patriots” to come to the city to “protect our lives and property.”
Rittenhouse, who was then 17, answered the call to help, his attorney, Mark Richards, said. Rittenhouse, who said he was a nursing student and a former firefighter EMT cadet, claimed during his testimony that his primary purpose for going to Kenosha on the night of the shootings was to provide first aid to people in need.
The prosecutors’ case hinged heavily on multiple videos showing Rittenhouse shooting the unarmed Rosenbaum as well as Huber, who allegedly struck him with a skateboard twice. Video also captured Rittenhouse shooting Grosskreutz, a trained paramedic, in the bicep after Grosskreutz approached him with a loaded pistol.
Lead prosecutor Thomas Binger said in a statement, “While we are disappointed with the verdict, it must be respected.”
“We are grateful to the members of the jury for their diligent and thoughtful deliberations. The Kenosha community has endured much over the past 15 months, and yet we remain resilient and strong,” Binger said.
Biden, Binger, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley and Evers all urged the public to remain peaceful.
Biden said he spoke with Evers Friday afternoon and offered “any assistance needed to ensure public safety.”
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in a statement: “We have seen so many black and brown youth killed, only to be put on trial posthumously, while the innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse was virtually demanded by the judge.”
He added, “We have to turn this into a moment to push even harder by staying engaged, by organizing for justice, by holding our leaders accountable, and by registering our friends and neighbors to vote.”
The Congressional Black Caucus called the verdict “unconscionable.”
“The ludicrous claim of self-defense is on par with the abhorrent behavior displayed by the prosecution and the judge,” the caucus said in a statement. “It is time for accountability. It is time for criminal justice reform, and it is beyond time for gun reform.”
Shaadie Ali, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said in a statement, “white militia members were welcomed with open arms” at the Kenosha protests, “[while] protesters, many of whom were people of color, were not protected and treated as the enemy.”
“We need a system of public safety that protects the lives of the entire community,” Ali said. “Rittenhouse’s trial highlights an urgent need for reform for both police and the criminal legal system. The system is broken, and it desperately needs to be fixed.”
Rittenhouse feels “a huge sense of relief,” defense attorney Richards told reporters Friday, adding, “He wishes none of this ever happened.”
“He has to get on with his life the best he can. I think eventually some anonymity will come back to it,” Richards said. “He’s had 24 hours security since this happened.”
ABC News’ Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.
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