Kyle Rittenhouse: Who is US teen cleared of protest killings?

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Media caption,

Two people were killed and one injured on the third night of unrest

A US teenager has been cleared of all charges in relation to two men he shot and killed during unrest in Wisconsin. What do we know about Kyle Rittenhouse?

After a black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020, two nights of rioting erupted.

On the third night, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fired on three men with a military-style semi-automatic rifle, killing two and seriously injuring a third.

He was arrested at his mother's home in Antioch, Illinois, some 30 minutes from Kenosha. A day later he was charged with one count of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of first-degree reckless homicide.

Videos indicate he spent hours on Tuesday apparently helping patrol the streets. He told journalists it was his "job" to guard buildings and even offer medical assistance to protesters.

Who is he?

Before dropping out of high school, he participated in cadet programmes with the fire department and police.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Kyle Rittenhouse gave an emotional testimony in his defence in court

His social media profiles show his support for law enforcement.

A Facebook photo of him was framed with the "Blue Lives Matter" logo - a pro-police movement that has occasionally clashed with Black Lives Matter supporters.

Several of his posts honoured police officers killed on duty, and he also posted pictures of himself wearing full police uniform. He is a former member of a local police cadet programme, Grayslake Police Department says.

Guns are another of his passions. Photos show him posing with weapons, practising target shooting and assembling a rifle.

After leaving school, he had a few jobs including one as a lifeguard.

What happened that night?

When the protests over Jacob Blake's shooting became violent, Mr Rittenhouse travelled to the city and armed himself with a semi-automatic rifle, with the intention of protecting property, he said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Cars were burnt by protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin during angry clashes

In an interview on the night before the shootings, he echoes police language when telling a journalist why he is armed.

"Part of my job also is to protect people. If someone is hurt, I'm running into harm's way," he says.

He was captured on video at different times during that night. At one point, he speaks to police who offer him water.

Later, he was shown being pursued by a group of people, one of whom appeared to fire into the air.

The teenager turns to see where the sound is coming from as another person tries to attack him.

At that point, the teenager appears to shoot the man, later identified as Joseph Rosenbaum. He was unarmed but Mr Rittenhouse said in court that he had tried to grab his gun, testimony corroborated by one of the prosecution's own witnesses.

Fleeing momentarily, he finds himself chased by a crowd who had seen him shoot Rosenbaum, before falling to the ground, and firing his gun. One of those hit by the gunfire falls to the ground, fatally injured. He is later named as Anthony Huber. Huber was seen on video swinging his skateboard at Rittenhouse.

Another person runs away apparently injured. In court, Gaige Grosskreutz acknowledged confronting Rittenhouse with a gun, even pointing it at him, but he denied he ever intended to shoot him.

One of the charges brought against him was possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. It was later dropped when his lawyers successfully argued state law allowed for someone under 18 to possess the firearm.

Correction 9th October 2020: This article was amended in the hours after publication to give a more detailed account of the sequence of events and make clear that Kyle Rittenhouse was seen on video being pursued by a group of people before the first shooting.