Former US President Donald Trump congratulated Kyle Rittenhouse, a white supremacist, after a jury cleared him of all charges at the conclusion of his homicide trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The jury on Friday acquitted Rittenhouse of all charges, including intentional homicide, which carries a life sentence, in a decision that has ignited a fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self-defense in the United States that has been disproportionately invoked in favor of white defendants.
Rittenhouse, who shot dead two men and wounded a third during racial justice protests in Kenosha last year, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety after he fatally shot two men and injured a third during civil unrest in Kenosha last year.
“Congratulations to Kyle Rittenhouse for being found INNOCENT of all charges,” Trump said in a statement on Friday.
“It’s called being found NOT GUILTY - And by the way, if that’s not self-defense, nothing is!” he added.
Rittenhouse, 18, shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded a third protester on August 25, 2020, during demonstrations on the streets of Kenosha.
Trump refused to condemn the shootings and suggested Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense.
The verdict comes less than a year after Kenosha County prosecutors failed to charge the white police officer who shot and paralyzed a Black man named Jacob Blake in August 2020, which caused widespread demonstrations against police brutality.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden, in a statement soon after the verdict, urged the American people to accept the jury’s controversial decision.
However, he conceded that the verdict “will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, [but] we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.” Biden added an admonition to all Americans “to express their views peacefully.”
Ahead of the verdict, a Republican primary candidate said that the US is "upside down" if Rittenhouse is sent to prison while Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, can walk free, according to Newsweek.
Jackson Lahmeyer, a pastor who is running against GOP Senator James Lankford in the 2022 Oklahoma senate primary, called Rittenhouse an "American hero" and said that Fauci should be imprisoned, Newsweek reported.