Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted Friday on all charges in the shootings that killed two men and injured a third during last year’s violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The 18-year-old broke down in tears and collapsed in his seat as the not-guilty verdict was read out in court. He hugged one of his lawyers, who told the shaking teen to “breathe.”
The high-profile case left Americans divided over whether Rittenhouse was a patriot taking a stand against lawlessness or a vigilante.
The teen faced five charges, including intentional homicide in the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, as well as attempted homicide for wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.
Judge Bruce Schroeder threw out a weapons charge against Rittenhouse on a technicality over the length of the gun’s barrel.
A seventh count against the teen for violating curfew on the night of the shootings was also dismissed after the judge ruled that prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he brought a semi-automatic rifle and a medical kit to Kenosha in what he claims was an effort to protect businesses as riots broke out on Aug. 25, 2020, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man who was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Throughout the two-week trial, the jury heard how Rittenhouse fatally shot Rosenbaum in an initial confrontation and just moments later fatally shot Huber and wounded Grosskreutz.
His attorneys argued that he acted in self-defense and only pulled the trigger on those who threatened him during the protests.
“Kyle Rittenhouse shot Mr. Rosenbaum because he was attacking Kyle. Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle — one with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with his gun,” lead defense attorney Mark Richards said in closing arguments.
Prosecutors, however, portrayed him as the instigator of the bloodshed, claiming that he “provoked everything” by bringing a rifle to the protests, then walked away like a “hero in a Western — without a care in the world for anything he’s just done.”
“You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you are the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people,” Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told jurors.
Rittenhouse broke down on the stand as he testified in his own defense late in the trial, sobbing uncontrollably as he described hearing a gunshot from behind him as he was being chased through the street by Rosenbaum.
“I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me by killing them,” the teen said.
Under cross-examination, a defiant Rittenhouse insisted he didn’t intend to kill any of the victims, telling jurors: “I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me.”
Rittenhouse testified Rosenbaum had cornered him and put his hand on the barrel of his rifle, Huber struck him with a skateboard and Grosskreutz came at him with a gun.
His account was largely corroborated by a series of witness videos that were played to jurors, as well as the prosecution’s own witnesses.
Grosskreutz, the lone survivor, took to the stand as a prosecution witness, testifying that he was unintentionally pointing his gun at Rittenhouse when the teen fired at him.
“I thought the defendant was an active shooter,” Grosskreutz said, adding he went after Rittenhouse after seeing him shoot the second man at close range.
Asked what was going through his mind as he pulled his gun from the holster, he said: “That I was going to die.”
The high-profile trial was filled with fiery exchanges between the prosecution, defense — and even the judge, who at one point suggested the state was acting in bad faith with its line of questioning when Rittenhouse was on the stand.
The defense demanded the judge declare a mistrial and prevent the teen from being retried after accusing the chief prosecutor of asking Rittenhouse out-of-bounds questions.