A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who fatally shot two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., and wounded a third, of all charges on Friday, including intentional homicide.
After three-and-a-half days of deliberation, the unanimous jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of all five counts that he had been facing, bringing an end to a controversial trial that has polarized the country.
Rittenhouse, then 17, shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded a third protester last year amid demonstrations against police brutality in Kenosha, where police had shot and paralyzed a Black man named Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse has maintained he shot the men in self defense.
The teen would have faced the possibility of life in prison if he had been convicted on the intentional homicide count.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony EversTony EversWisconsin Democratic governor vetoes restrictive abortion bills DA: Setting 'inappropriately low' bail for suspect in parade attack 'resulted in a tragedy' Wisconsin Supreme Court hands win to GOP in key ruling on new congressional maps MORE (D) had activated about 500 National Guard members this week in preparation for the verdict.
The trial's outcome is likely to further inflame national debates over civil rights. It comes less than a year after Kenosha County prosecutors chose not to charge the white police officer who shot Blake in August 2020.
The case had become a polarizing and even partisan national issue. On Friday, Republican leaders applauded the verdict while Democrats and civil rights advocates said it was emblematic of the disparate racial outcomes produced by the nation's justice system.
"I believe justice has been served in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial," Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFauci calls Ron Johnson's AIDS comment 'preposterous': 'I don't have any clue of what he's talking about' Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' It's time to bury ZombieCare once and for all MORE (R-Wis.) wrote on Twitter. "I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild."
Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP, called the verdict a "travesty."
"Rittenhouse's decision to go to Kenosha and provoke protestors was unwarranted. Moreover, the outcome of this case sets a dangerous precedent," Derrick Johnson said in a statement. "We have seen this same outcome time and time again; a justice system that presents different outcomes based on the race of the accused. This verdict is a reminder of the treacherous role that white supremacy and privilege play within our justice system."
President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE told reporters when asked about the verdict on Friday, "I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works and we have to abide by it."
Rittenhouse, armed with an AR-15 rifle illegally purchased for him by a friend, traveled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois during the unrest following Blake's shooting. His lawyers told jurors that the teenager was there to protect small businesses from looting.
Videos played during the trial showed Rittenhouse shooting the men when confronted by the protesters.
Prosecutors had accused Rittenhouse of traveling to Kenosha to look for trouble and argued that the killings could not legally be considered self defense because he had provoked demonstrators into attacking him.