A jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts in connection with an August 2020 shooting that left two men dead amid protests against police brutality.
The jury returned the verdict Friday amid its fourth day of deliberations.
Rittenhouse was found not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. He would have faced life in prison if convicted of the intentional homicide count.
A visibly emotional Rittenhouse collapsed into his chair as the jury's verdict was read.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he traveled from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha on Aug. 25 as protests gripped the city following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.
Rittenhouse and others armed themselves to protect local businesses from looters and vandals. Several buildings in the area had been vandalized and damaged in the days prior when protests grew violent.
The testimony at trial showed that later in the evening, Rittenhouse separated from the people he had banded together with to protect a used car lot. At that car lot, Rittenhouse encountered protester Joseph Rosenbaum. During that encounter, Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum.
A video then showed Rittenhouse running while people chased him. That's when a still-unidentified man tried to kick Rittenhouse in the head. Another man named Anthony Huber hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse opened fire, killing Huber. Rittenhouse also fired at the first unidentified man but missed.
Moments later, a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz, appeared next to Rittenhouse with a pistol. Rittenhouse fired and shot Grosskreutz in the bicep. Grosskreutz survived the shooting and testified during the trial.
Rittenhouse continued down the road, and at one point, passed a police line. The video showed Rittenhouse raising his arms. Police told him to go home, and they continued on their way to the shooting scenes.
Rittenhouse turned himself into police the next day.
Jurors ultimately decided that Rittenhouse feared for his life and fired in self-defense as protesters surrounded him.
The prosecution had argued the opposite, claiming that Rittenhouse was the aggressor.
After the jury returned the verdict, protesters gathered outside of the Kenosha courthouse. As of 2 p.m. ET, the demonstrations have been peaceful.
Earlier in the week, in a joint statement, the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department and Kenosha Police Department said they saw no reason to pre-emptively close roads or issue a curfew ahead of the verdict.
"Our departments have worked together and made coordinated efforts over the last year to improve response capabilities to large-scale events," the statement said. "We have also strengthened our existing relationships with State and Federal resources."
Huber's family released a statement shortly after the verdict was read, saying that they were "heartbroken" and "angry" that Rittenhouse was found not guilty.
"Today's verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son," the statement read. "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. We hope that decent people will join us in forcefully rejecting that message and demanding more of our laws, our officials and our justice system."
When asked his thoughts on the verdict by pool reports, President Joe Biden said he stood by the jury's decision.
"I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works and we have to abide by it," Biden said.
The president released this statement on the matter:
"While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. I ran on a promise to bring Americans together, because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. I know that we’re not going to heal our country’s wounds overnight, but 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."
"I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy. The White House and Federal authorities have been in contact with Governor Evers's office to prepare for any outcome in this case, and I have spoken with the Governor this afternoon and offered support and any assistance needed to ensure public safety."