Washington, Nov 19 (EFE).- Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two protesters and wounded a third during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the midwestern United States, was found not guilty Friday.
After three-and-a-half days of deliberations, the jury of seven women and five men voted unanimously to acquit the 18-year-old on all five counts, which included first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree intentional homicide.
Rittenhouse, then 17, traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, from his home 20 mi (32 km) away in the neighboring state of Illinois on Aug. 24, 2020, amid protests against a police shooting that left a black man paralyzed from the waist down.
He testified during the trial that he came to Kenosha, where his father lives, for the purpose of protecting businesses during the protests.
The night of Aug. 25, Rittenhouse ventured out with a semi-automatic rifle and linked up with other armed would-be protectors of property.
A video played in the courtroom showed the teenager pointing the weapon at protesters before one demonstrator, Joseph Rosenbaum, began chasing him.
Rittenhouse ultimately turned around and opened fire, killing the 36-year-old Rosenbaum.
At that point, Anthony Huber, 26, tried to disarm Rittenhouse, who testified that Huber struck him with a skateboard and tried to grab the rifle, prompting the teen to fire what would prove to be a fatal shot.
Neither Rosenbaum nor Huber was armed.
Gaige Grosskreutz, a 27-year-old former paramedic who was at the protest to provide first-aid and monitor events as a legal observer for the American Civil Liberties Union, then approached Rittenhouse with a pistol in one hand.
The teenager shot Grosskreutz, badly damaging his arm.
“I brought the gun for my protection,” Rittenhouse said during the trial. “I didn’t think I would have to use the gun and end up defending myself.”
“I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” Rittenhouse said in tearful testimony.
Under Wisconsin law, in a case involving a claim of self-defense, prosecutors must prove that the defendant did not act on the basis of a “reasonable belief” that his or her life was in danger.
Protests and disturbances spread across the US in the summer of 2020 after an African-American man, George Floyd, died on May 25 in Minneapolis as the result of a white police officer’s kneeling on his neck for nearly eight minutes.
The unrest in Kenosha arose from an incident on Aug. 23, 2020 in which a 29-year-old African-American man, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back seven times by an officer who was trying to arrest him.
Then-President Donald Trump defended Rittenhouse in the wake of the shootings and right-wing groups have hailed him as a hero, while others describe the teenager as a vigilante.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers put 500 members of the state’s National Guard on stand-by earlier this week as a precaution ahead of the verdict in the Rittenhouse case. EFE