Rittenhouse acquitted of murder charges, amid growing U.S. gun violence

2021-11-20 09:37:30
Rittenhouse acquitted of murder charges, amid growing U.S. gun violence

A jury acquitted teenager Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests in a decision that re-ignited fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self-defense in the United States.

Jurors found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty on all charges: two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide for wounding a third man, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in protests marred by arson, rioting and looting on Aug. 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Rittenhouse broke down sobbing after the verdict and collapsed to the floor before being helped back into his chair, his hands shaking. His mother also wept.

Amid a heavy law enforcement presence, several dozen protesters lined the steps outside the courthouse after the verdict was read, some carrying placards in support of Rittenhouse and others expressing disappointment. By early evening, the crowd had thinned to a handful of people and there was no sign of disturbances in the city.

Rittenhouse, who testified that he had no choice but to open fire to protect himself, is viewed as heroic by some pro-gun conservatives who consider the shootings justified. Many on the left view Rittenhouse as a vigilante and an embodiment of an out-of-control American gun culture.

Rittenhouse's decision, at age 17, to roam the streets of Kenosha toting a weapon in the name of protecting private property from rioters struck a particular nerve about just how far gun rights should extend.

Gun control advocates warned the jury's verdict could inspire a new wave of armed vigilantism, after Rittenhouse - armed with an AR-15-style rifle - traveled in August 2020 from his Illinois home to Kenosha after demonstrations erupted following the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake.

Guns have long been a potent political issue in the United States, where permissive laws have led to the highest rate of civilian firearm ownership in the world. Mass shootings, which are far more rare in other wealthy nations, have plagued the U.S. for decades.

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