A jury of 12 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, found 18-year-old accused murderer Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts Friday afternoon, marking a conclusive end to the most high-profile case to arise from last year's violent spree of Black Lives Matter riots.
The jury gave the verdict Friday afternoon after nearly four days of deliberation, acquitting the defendant of all charges.
The jury's determination is perceived as a victory for self-defense and gun-rights advocates as well as a repudiation of the unfounded narrative initially pushed by Democrats and mainstream media outlets that branded Rittenhouse as a white supremacist vigilante.
What's the background?
The Illinois teenager was tried on multiple felony counts — including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide — for fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding Gage Grosskreutz, 28, during Black Lives Matter riots in the Wisconsin city on Aug. 25, 2020.
Riots had broken out in the city following the shooting of a black resident, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer. After multiple investigations, the officer who pulled the trigger that injured Blake was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to the job.
Rittenhouse's defense team maintained that their client was ambushed by rioters after coming to Kenosha that night to protect local businesses from looting and burning and to provide medical aid to individuals injured in the uprising. The prosecution, on the other hand, sought to prove that Rittenhouse had come to the protests armed with an AR-15 in order to seek violence.
Rittenhouse would have served a mandatory life sentence in prison if he had been convicted. But in the end, the jury favored the defense team's arguments of self-defense over the prosecution's claims of murder.
As the trial unfolded, legal experts began characterizing the prosecution's bid as an uphill climb. Videos of incidents viewed by the public appeared to show Rittenhouse being chased down and physically threatened before firing any shots.
But in their closing arguments to the jury, the prosecution argued that Rittenhouse provoked the "entire incident" of fatalities by bringing a gun to the protests. They also argued that by bringing the gun, the defendant gave up his right to self-defense — an argument that flies in the face of both state and federal law.
"You lose the right to self-defense when you're the one who brought the gun," said Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger. He later added, "You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create. If you're the one threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense."
Elsewhere, the prosecution team seemed to mock Rittenhouse as a "coward" for bringing "a gun to a fistfight" and characterized the rioters who chased Rittenhouse as a crowd "full of heroes" who tried to stop an "active shooter."
Many now anxiously wait to see whether the verdict will ignite more rioting and looting in downtown Kenosha and elsewhere around the country.
Over the weekend, residents in the small Wisconsin city began bracing for a possible repeat of last August, NBC News reported. Several business owners, too, closed their shops on Monday in anticipation of violence and vandalism.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) also responded to potential violence by pre-emptively ordering 500 National Guard troops to Kenosha to ensure public safety and order.
This is a breaking story and may be updated.