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Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted in trial over Kenosha shootings

Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager who shot and killed two people during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020, has been cleared of homicide charges.

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Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted in trial over Kenosha shootings
POOL REUTERS

Kyle Rittenhouse, a US teenager who shot two people dead during anti-racism protests in Wisconsin last year, has been acquitted of homicide charges after claiming self-defence.

A 12-person jury comprising seven women and five men found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty on all counts on Friday after just over three days of deliberations.

Rittenhouse killed two people amid unrest over Jacob Blake shooting

On 25 August 2020, Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid unrest over the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer in the city.

Blake, who was unarmed, was left paralysed after being shot seven times by police officer Rusten Sheskey on 23 August 2020.

Amid ongoing civil unrest in the US over the murder of black man George Floyd by white police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota three months earlier, Blake's shooting saw several nights of furious protests erupt in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the country.

Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, had travelled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois, armed with an AR-15 rifle. He has said he was seeking to protect property amid the protests.

Rittenhouse "feared for his life", defence claimed

Rittenhouse’s defence team alleged that he “feared for his life” when he shot and killed Rosenbaum and Huber, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, 28.

"Mr Rosenbaum was chasing me," Rittenhouse testified during his trial. "He said he was going to kill me if he got me alone. I was alone. I was running from him."

Defence argues Rittenhouse provoked shootings

However, prosecutors argued that Rittenhouse provoked the sequence of events that saw him shoot Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz, by taking his semi-automatic weapon into the unrest and by pointing it at Rosenbaum.

"When the defendant provokes this incident, he loses the right to self-defence. You cannot claim self-defence against a danger you create," prosecutor Thomas Binger said.

The moment Rittenhouse was acquitted:

Verdict "sends unacceptable message", say Huber's parents

In a statement, Huber’s parents said they are “heartbroken and angry” at Rittenhouse’s acquittal, declaring: “There was no justice today for Anthony, or for Mr. Rittenhouse’s other victims, Joseph Rosenbaum and Gaige Grosskreutz.”

They added: “Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. 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.”

Biden: "I stand by what the jury has to say"

Reacting to the news that Rittenhouse has been cleared, US President Joe Biden told reporters: "I stand by what the jury has to say. The jury system works".