After an earlier confrontation with Kenosha resident Joseph Rosenbaum, journalist Richard McGinnis saw Rittenhouse being chased by Rosenbaum in a parking lot.Racine resident Joshua Ziminski fired a shot into the air nearby, then Rittenhouse turned towards Rosenbaum, who was unarmed. McGinnis testified at trial that Rosenbaum lunged at Rittenhouse and tried to take his rifle. Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum four times at close range, killing him. Rittenhouse then ran down the street while being pursued by a crowd of at least a dozen people. After a man hit him in the head, Rittenhouse tripped and fell to the ground, where he was jump kicked by another man. Rittenhouse shot at him twice from the ground and missed.Silver Lake resident Anthony Huber then struck Rittenhouse in the left shoulder, neck and head with a skateboard and attempted to take his rifle. Rittenhouse shot Huber once in the chest, killing him.West Allis resident Gaige Grosskreutz then approached Rittenhouse and pointed a handgun at him, then Rittenhouse wounded Grosskreutz by shooting him once in the right arm.
Rittenhouse was charged with two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide, two counts of reckless endangerment, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, and one count of curfew violation. During his trial from November 1 to 19, 2021, his lawyer argued his actions were self-defense. Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed the unlawful possession charge and the curfew violation charge for being legally unsupported, and a unanimous jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of the remaining charges.
On August 25, former Kenosha alderman Kevin Mathewson put out a call on the Facebook page of the Kenosha Guard militia group for "patriots willing to take up arms and defend" Kenosha. Mathewson had previously formed the Kenosha Guard in response to the George Floyd protests earlier that year. The event post, titled "Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property," was picked up and redistributed by InfoWars. It received a national and international online response, attracting a larger number of armed men than were present at other protests in Wisconsin that summer. Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and County Sheriff David Beth expressed their disapproval of armed civilians patrolling the streets, while some Wisconsin police officers were seen in a video giving them water and heard saying, "We appreciate you guys, we really do."
At the time of the shooting, Kyle Rittenhouse was a 17 year old resident of Antioch, Illinois, a community located about 20 miles from Kenosha by road. Prior to the Kenosha unrest, he had participated in local police cadet programs and expressed support on social media for the Blue Lives Matter movement and law enforcement. Four months prior to the shooting, Rittenhouse's friend, Dominick Black, purchased a semi-automatic,AR-15 style rifle as a favor for him in Wisconsin since Rittenhouse was too young to purchase and possess a gun. Black's stepfather kept the gun stored in a locked safe at his home in Kenosha but had relocated the weapon to an unsecured area in the basement on August 24, the second day of the Kenosha unrest, in case of a break in.
Sequence of events
Before the shooting
During the day of August 25, peaceful protests in Kenosha were followed by chaos where demonstrators, armed civilians and others faced off against one another and the police at night. After the city suffered building and vehicle damage the preceding day, social media had drawn locals and outsiders, left-wing activists and right-wing militia into the city streets despite an evening curfew imposed on citizens. Some 250 National Guard members were deployed to the city. Militia that included Boogaloo boys and a biker crew carrying "hatchets, ball bats, and ﬁrearms" accumulated near two gas stations south of Car Source, an automotive business with three properties (a dealership, a used car lot, and another car lot to the South), which had been badly damaged during the first two nights of unrest. Car Source had suffered $1.5 million in arson damage the previous night. The shootings took place shortly before midnight along Sheridan Road in Kenosha after protesters were moved out of Civic Center Park following clashes with law enforcement. Police in armored vehicles drove protesters south away from the courthouse and Civic Center Park.
On August 24, Rittenhouse drove to Kenosha to stay with his friend Dominick Black. The following day, August 25, Rittenhouse helped clean graffiti off a school. Later, Rittenhouse and Black, both armed with rifles, arrived at Car Source. Accounts differ as to whether Rittenhouse and Black's help was requested by Car Source. The dealership owner's sons denied that gunmen had been asked to defend the business, but several witnesses testified that armed individuals had been directly sought out by the business to protect their property.
In the hours leading up to the shooting, Rittenhouse appeared in multiple videos taken by protesters and bystanders and was interviewed twice: first by a livestreamer at the car dealership where he and a number of other armed men had stationed themselves, second by Richie McGinniss, a reporter for The Daily Caller. Rittenhouse was seen talking with police officers, and offering medical aid to those who were injured. When McGinniss asked Rittenhouse why he was at the car dealership, he responded: "So, people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business. Part of my job is also to help people. If there is somebody hurt, I'm running into harm's way. That's why I have my rifle, because I have to protect myself, obviously. I also have my med kit." At some point, Rittenhouse left the dealership, was prevented by police from returning, and then headed to the Car Source lot farthest to the South.
Part of the first confrontation between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum was witnessed by McGinniss to whom it seemed that Rosenbaum and other protesters were moving toward Rittenhouse, who was trying to evade them; Rosenbaum tried to engage Rittenhouse who avoided this by sidestepping and running away. Rittenhouse testified at trial that Rosenbaum had threatened to kill him. FBI infrared footage taken from an overhead airplane captured the shooting of Rosenbaum and the events immediately preceding it.
Video footage showed Rittenhouse being pursued across a parking lot by a group of people. Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag containing socks, underwear, and deodorant at Rittenhouse. A bystander named Joshua Ziminski fired a shot into the air, and then Rittenhouse stopped running and turned towards the sound of the shot. Rittenhouse testified at trial that prior to being chased by Rosenbaum, he heard another man tell Rosenbaum to "get him and kill him," but also knew that Rosenbaum was unarmed. Rittenhouse testified that he aimed his gun at Rosenbaum to deter him from pursuing him further.
Witnesses for the prosecution testified at trial that Rosenbaum engaged Rittenhouse and tried to take his rifle from him. At 11:48 pm, Rittenhouse fired four rounds at Rosenbaum. The bullets perforated Rosenbaum's heart, aorta, pulmonary artery and right lung, fractured his pelvis, and caused minor wounds to his left thigh and forehead. McGinniss, who had been standing fifteen feet away and felt one of the bullets whiz by his leg, checked himself before he began to administer first aid to Rosenbaum and told Rittenhouse to call 911. Rittenhouse stood over McGinniss for half of a minute before fleeing, and was heard saying "I just killed somebody" on his cell phone to his friend Dominick Black as he sprinted out of the parking lot where he had shot Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum was pronounced dead in a hospital an hour later. Rittenhouse then ran down the street towards police vehicles pursued by a few protesters.
Gaige Grosskreutz testified that he was filming the protest as a legal observer for the American Civil Liberties Union on a Facebook livestream. Shortly before midnight Grosskreutz said he heard gunshots to the south and observed Rittenhouse running in his direction on Sheridan Road. Grosskreutz said he ran alongside Rittenhouse and asked "Hey, what are you doing?" and "You shoot somebody?"
Protesters were heard on two different videos yelling "Beat him up!", "Hey he shot him!" and "Get him! Get that dude!" One individual struck Rittenhouse, knocking off his cap, shortly after which Rittenhouse tripped and fell to the ground. Others shouted "What'd he do?", "Just shot someone!" and "Get his ass!" While he was on the ground, one of the men in pursuit jump kicked Rittenhouse who fired twice but missed the man.
A roadblock pays tribute to Anthony Huber on the road on which he was killed
Another protester, Anthony Huber, made contact with Rittenhouse's left shoulder, neck and head with a skateboard as the pair struggled for control of the gun. As Huber was pulling on the rifle, Rittenhouse fired once, hitting Huber in the chest, perforating his heart and right lung, causing his rapid death.
Grosskreutz testified he believed Rittenhouse was an active shooter. Grosskreutz had an expired concealed carry permit for a handgun and was carrying a Glock pistol. Grosskreutz approached Rittenhouse, who was on the ground, but stopped and put his hands up after Huber was shot. Grosskreutz then pointed his handgun and advanced on Rittenhouse, who shot Grosskreutz in the arm, severing most of his right biceps muscle.
At least 16 gunshots from other sources were heard on video during the time that Rittenhouse was on the ground.
After the shooting
Rittenhouse got back to his feet and walked towards police with his hands up and the rifle strapped across his chest. Several police officers testified during the trial that they were responding to an active shooter incident and did not recognize that Rittenhouse was the shooter. He was repeatedly told to get out of the road, and when he continued to advance, one officer attempted to pepper-spray him. Several witnesses and protesters had shouted for Rittenhouse to be arrested. When asked at a press conference why Rittenhouse was not stopped, Kenosha Sheriff David Beth said, "In situations that are high-stress, you have such incredible tunnel vision" and implied officers may not have realized he had been involved in the shooting. Likewise, Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis said that "there was nothing to suggest this individual was involved in any criminal behavior" due to the fact that someone walking towards the police with their hands up was "no longer abnormal" in the wake of the protests.
Video clips from Kenosha immediately went viral after the shooting. Facebook, criticized for allowing militia groups to post solicitations for armed attendees and for failing to respond to several hundred complaints, removed the Kenosha Guard's post and classified the event as a mass shooting. On August 29, the legal team for Rittenhouse released a statement asserting that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and was wrongly arrested. On September 22, Rittenhouse's defense team released an 11-minute narrated video of the night, consisting of quick cuts between various angles. The video contends that several shots were fired before and after the shooting of Rosenbaum, and that Rosenbaum may have started chasing Rittenhouse because he mistook him for a man with whom he had a dispute earlier.
On January 22, 2021, the conditions of Rittenhouse's release were changed so that he could not consume alcohol, have access to firearms, or associate with persons or groups known to be a threat to others based on race or religion. These changes were made after Rittenhouse was seen on January 5 at a bar with his mother in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, drinking beers and posing for pictures alongside five men who sang "Proud of Your Boy", a song used by members of the far-right Proud Boys political organization. In one photo with two of them, Rittenhouse flashed an "OK" sign, a hand gesture allegedly used by white supremacists.
On February 11, judge Bruce Schroeder denied a request by prosecutors for a $200,000 increase in Rittenhouse's bond, after Rittenhouse failed to file an address change within 48 hours of moving, stating that people out on bail often fail to update their address. Rittenhouse's attorney said that Rittenhouse had been staying at an undisclosed address out of concern for his safety.
The trial for Rittenhouse took place from November 1 to 19, 2021 in Kenosha County Circuit Court. The jury heard testimony from over 30 witnesses and viewed more than a dozen videos taken on the night of the shooting.
first-degree recklessly endangering safety (two counts), punishable by imprisonment of up to 17 years and six months per count, one count for endangering Richard McGinnis and one count firing two shots that missed at a man who jump kicked Rittenhouse
failure to comply with an emergency order from state or local government, punishable by a fine of up to $200 (for breaking the 8 p.m. Kenosha curfew, dismissed)
Each felony charge's maximum imprisonment included a "use of a dangerous weapon" modifier, which invokes a Wisconsin law that prescribes an addition of no more than five years of imprisonment. In a jailhouse interview with The Washington Post, Rittenhouse said he purchased the AR-15 rifle, which was identified as a Smith & Wesson M&P15 chambered in .223.
At a hearing on September 17, 2021, Schroeder denied prosecutors' requests to admit Rittenhouse's meeting with Proud Boys members and a previous fight that he was involved in as evidence in the case, finding that the incidents were "too dissimilar" to the shooting. Schroeder also denied the defense's request to admit evidence of Rosenbaum's prior criminal record as a sex offender. On October 25, Schroeder defined what testimony would or would not be admissible by both the defense and the prosecution. Schroeder ordered that the men shot by Rittenhouse cannot be referred to as victims, but could be described as arsonists or looters if the defense was able to establish evidence that Rosenbaum, Huber, or Grosskreutz were engaged in those activities that night. Legal experts stated that saying that the term "victim" can appear prejudicial in a court of law, which would heavily influence a jury by presupposing who is innocent and guilty.
Arguments and testimonies
Trial arguments and testimonies took place between November 2 and 15, 2021, in Kenosha County Courthouse. After opening arguments, jurors were shown multiple video recordings of the events. Video footage recorded shortly before the shooting showed Rosenbaum confronting the armed men, after one of them pointed a gun at him, and shouting "Shoot me, nigger!" before several protesters rushed to calm him down. Two witnesses testified having seen Rosenbaum behave violently and yell before approaching Rittenhouse and trying to take the teenager's rifle. A former marine testified that Rosenbaum had taunted him and other armed men before the shootings; he also said that he did not consider Rosenbaum a threat. A witness who said he had spoken with Rittenhouse after the shooting testified that Rittenhouse was nervous, pale, and sweating, repeatedly saying "I just shot someone." Three more witnesses, including a Kenosha police officer, testified regarding the claim that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense. The prosecution questioned that Rittenhouse would feel threatened while holding a rifle, and described him as an armed threat.
Grosskreutz testified that when he approached Rittenhouse and put his hands in the air, he believed he saw Rittenhouse re-rack his rifle, which to Grosskreutz "meant that [Rittenhouse] pulled the trigger while [Grosskreutz'] hands were in the air, but the gun didn't fire", and that Rittenhouse "wasn't accepting [Grosskreutz'] surrender"; he then decided to "close the distance" to Rittenhouse, to employ "non-lethal" methods of either "wrestling the gun" or "detaining" Rittenhouse. He further testified that he was "trying to preserve [his] own life" but "was never trying to kill" Rittenhouse, and that he moved closer to Rittenhouse, unintentionally pointing his handgun at Rittenhouse, after which Rittenhouse shot him.
Rittenhouse testified that Rosenbaum had twice threatened to kill him, and had ambushed him before the fatal shooting. Prosecution witness Ryan Balch, a military veteran who also carried an AR-style rifle that night, recalled Rosenbaum shouting "If I catch any of you guys alone tonight I'm going to fucking kill you!" Rittenhouse broke down on recounting those events, and the judge ordered a recess. Afterward, Rittenhouse said that Rosenbaum charged at him, putting his hand on Rittenhouse's gun barrel. In cross-examination, Rittenhouse acknowledged using deadly force to stop the attack on him, while also saying that killing was not his intent.
While the jury were deliberating, the defense made a motion for a mistrial with prejudice, arguing that there was "prosecutorial overreaching" and that the state acted "in bad faith." They later requested a mistrial without prejudice due to a dispute over drone video used in the trial. The defense attorneys stated that the version provided to them by the prosecution was in a lower resolution and different aspect ratio than the version presented by the state, in violation of rules of evidence and the right of defendants to confront their accuser.
After alleging that Rittenhouse had refrained from commenting on the case until the trial in order to fit his testimony to others' accounts, prosecutor Thomas Binger was admonished by Judge Schroeder, who accused him of a "grave constitutional violation" of the right to silence guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.
On November 18, Schroeder banned MSNBC and anybody affiliated with the cable network from the courthouse for the duration of the trial. The judge explained that on the previous night, Kenosha police noticed a car following the jury bus, and stopped it when it ran a red light. Schroeder identified the driver as "James J. Morrison, who claimed he was a producer with NBC News, employed by MSNBC" and that Morrison said his boss, Irene Byon, told him to follow the jury. Police took Morrison into custody on suspicion of photographing jurors, but after they found no pictures of jurors, he was "issued traffic related citations" and released. In a statement, NBC News referred to the vehicle driver as a "freelancer" and denied that he intended to photograph jurors or contact them during deliberations.
After the prosecution rested its case, the judge dismissed a charge of curfew violation against Rittenhouse, citing a lack of evidence offered by the prosecution; the charge of unlawful possession of a firearm was also dismissed, based on the defense argument that the Wisconsin law only restricted minors from carrying rifles if they are short-barreled. The barrel of Rttenhouse's rifle was longer than 16 inches, the minimum barrel length allowed under state law. The jury reached a unanimous verdict on all other charges after more than 25 hours of deliberations spanning four days and Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all five other counts.
Black was charged with two felony counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to a minor, resulting in death, for supplying Rittenhouse with the rifle used to kill Rosenbaum and Huber. Bond was set at $2,500. Black has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Ziminski was charged with disorderly conduct using a dangerous weapon, obstructing an officer, and arson of property other than a building. He plead not guilty to the charges, but admitted to firing a shot in the air before Rittenhouse killed Rosenbaum.
A lawsuit was filed in September 2020 by plaintiffs including the partner of Anthony Huber, seeking damages from Rittenhouse, Facebook, the far-right group Boogaloo Bois, and the Kenosha Guard militia and its commander. The suit alleged negligence on the part of Facebook in allowing the Kenosha Guard to call for militia members on its platform and alleged that the defendants had participated in a conspiracy to violate their civil rights. The suit was withdrawn by the plaintiffs without comment and dismissed with prejudice in the last week of January 2021.
On January 4, 2021 Huber's parents and Gaige Grosskreutz each filed $10 million claim notices, against both the city and county, alleging negligence due to inaction in protecting their rights.
On August 17, 2021 Huber's parents filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Kenosha Police Department and Kenosha County Sheriff's Department, claiming that law enforcement allowed Rittenhouse to harm people peacefully protesting against the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Grosskreutz filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on October 14, 2021 alleging that Kenosha law enforcement officials, including the Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha Sheriff's office, had coordinated with and encouraged the participation of armed militias, depriving protestors of their constitutional right to freedom of speech. The lawsuit alleges that police enabled the violence by allowing militia to patrol the streets, then funneled protestors toward the armed citizens, telling militia members to take care of the protesters.
Public sentiment regarding the shootings was polarized. Coverage was both critical and supportive of Rittenhouse's actions, and used terms such as "vigilante" and "terrorist", but also "volunteer" and "maintaining peace" to describe him.
Writing for the American Bar Association Journal, Matt Reynolds observed that the "scenes in Wisconsin illustrated a tension between the Second Amendment right to bear arms and the First Amendment right to peacefully protest."
An Economist/YouGov poll conducted with 1,500 adult Americans between November 14–16 found that Black Americans overwhelmingly thought Rittenhouse should be found guilty of homicide while White Americans were closely divided.
Snopes tracked Facebook accounts they considered unusual and determined that "foreign-run Facebook accounts celebrated the Rittenhouse verdict." Facebook removed the accounts following the report.
Criticism of the police
Many commentators were critical of the fact that Rittenhouse was not immediately arrested despite witnesses shouting that he was the shooter. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called for the resignations of Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and of Kenosha Sheriff David Beth. The ACLU statement argued that Beth's deputies fraternized with "white supremacist counter-protesters" during the day of the shooting and did not arrest the shooter. The statement attacked Miskinis for blaming those shot in the course of the shooting when he said that the violence was the result of the "persons" involved violating curfew. The Kenosha mayor stated that he would not ask the sheriff or police chief to resign.
Responses by authorities
NBC News obtained a Department of Homeland Security internal document and reported that it directed federal law enforcement officials to make specific statements regarding Rittenhouse, such as noting that he "took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners" and that "[Rittenhouse] is innocent until proven guilty and deserves a fair trial based on all the facts, not just the ones that support a certain narrative."
Responses by Internet companies
Several internet compaines including Facebook, Twitter and GoFundMe restricted content related to Rittenhouse and the shooting. Two days after the shooting, Facebook removed content supporting Rittenhouse, citing rules banning praise or support of mass shooters or glorification of violence. Facebook further disabled searches for "Kyle Rittenhouse", with a spokesperson saying "We've designated this shooting as a mass murder and have removed the shooter's accounts from Facebook and Instagram". Shortly after the trial ended, Facebook lifted their ban. An online merchandise store run by Rittenhouse's family to fundraise for legal expenses was deplatformed twice, once by an unnamed vendor and again by Printify, the latter of whom stated "we don't want to be affiliated with a story that's involved in such a complex, controversial and ongoing case." GoFundMe, who banned the Rittenhouse defense fund because he was accused of a violent crime, lifted their ban after Rittenhouse was acquitted.
Six days after the shooting, then-President Donald Trump said, "He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like," noting the incident was under investigation. "I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed." Trump later went on to retweet a statement by Tim Pool describing how the case of Rittenhouse had convinced Pool to vote for Trump, and liked another one with similar content. In public comments, Trump showed support for the idea that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense. The former President later described the trial as a "witch hunt from the Radical Left", and praised the not guilty verdict from the jury.
On September 30, 2020, a month after the shootings, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden shared a post on Twitter criticizing Donald Trump for not condemning white supremacists that included a video with an image of Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse's mother said that this wrongly implied her son was a white supremacist. Conservatives, right-wing politicians, and others in the media called upon Biden to apologize to Rittenhouse for his election campaign remarks. In response to the verdict, Biden stated "I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works and we have to abide by it." The White House issued a written statement saying "While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken[...]."
Wisconsin governor Tony Evers said in a statement that "No verdict will be able to bring back the lives of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, or heal Gaige Grosskreutz's injuries, just as no verdict can heal the wounds or trauma experienced by Jacob Blake and his family. No ruling today changes our reality in Wisconsin that we have work to do toward equity, accountability, and justice that communities across our state are demanding and deserve."
IllinoisgovernorJ. B. Pritzker said, "carrying a loaded gun into a community 20 miles from your home and shooting unarmed citizens is fundamentally wrong. It’s a tragedy that the court could not acknowledge that basic fact." Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged the verdict and added that "no one should ever take the law into their own hands, or attempt to make themselves the judge, jury, and executioner. What Kyle Rittenhouse did was reckless, dangerous, and showed an utter disregard for human life."
^Vogt, Adrienne; Sangal, Aditi; Wagner, Meg; Macaya, Melissa; Mahtani, Melissa (November 19, 2021). "Rittenhouse jury reaches verdict". CNN. Archived from the original on November 19, 2021. Retrieved November 19, 2021.
Treisman, Rachel (August 27, 2020). "Kenosha Shooting Suspect Faces Homicide Charges In Protesters' Deaths". NPR. National Public Radio. Archived from the original on August 28, 2020. Retrieved August 28, 2020. Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager accused of shooting and killing protesters in Kenosha, Wis., was charged on Thursday with six criminal counts including felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
^"Wisconsin Statute 939.63(1)(b)". Wisconsin State Legislature. Archived from the original on October 9, 2020. Retrieved August 28, 2020. If the maximum term of imprisonment for a felony is more than 5 years or is a life term, the maximum term of imprisonment for the felony may be increased by not more than 5 years.