Kyle Rittenhouse didn't illegally bring a gun across state lines and 5 other myths surrounding the trial debunked

·6 min read
Kyle Rittenhouse waits for his trial to begin for the day at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.
Kyle Rittenhouse waits for his trial to begin for the day at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool
  • A Wisconsin jury fully acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday, finding him not guilty on five counts.

  • Rittenhouse, 18, was on trial for fatally shooting two men and injuring a third during civil unrest in Kenosha in 2020.

  • Insider debunked six prevalent myths surrounding the high-profile and tense trial.

A jury fully acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday, bringing a close to the high-profile and often tense trial that reflected America's deep political polarization.

Rittenhouse, 18, who was not charged with murder, faced charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide for fatally shooting two men and injuring a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse was also charged with reckless endangerment of two additional men.

The teenager pleaded not guilty to all five counts and testified that he acted in self-defense, saying the men he shot were attacking him. He was acquitted on all counts.

In the aftermath of Friday's verdict, a flurry of responses and reactions to the ruling restated longstanding myths and misinformation surrounding the trial and Rittenhouse's actions on August 25, 2020.

Insider debunked six such myths.

Myth: Kyle Rittenhouse illegally brought a gun across state lines

Perhaps the most persistent myth surrounding the case is the idea that Rittenhouse, then 17, brought an AR-15 across state lines. Rittenhouse lived about 20 minutes outside of Kenosha, in Antioch, Illinois. His Illinois residence helped spur rumors that the teenager traveled to Wisconsin with his rifle illegally in tow.

But during his trial, Rittenhouse testified in court that he drove himself from his home in Illinois to Kenosha on August 24, 2020, the day before he fatally shot two men. The gun was already being stored at a friend's house in Kenosha, according to police records and court testimony.

Myth: Kyle Rittenhouse possessed the weapon illegally

Rittenhouse and his friend, Dominick Black, testified that Black, who was 18 at the time, used Rittenhouse's money to purchase the weapon at a Wisconsin hardware store in May 2020. The two reportedly agreed that Black would keep the gun until Rittenhouse turned 18 in January 2021, according to court testimony.

Black is now being prosecuted for participating in the illegal straw purchase of the weapon on behalf of Rittenhouse. But Rittenhouse's possession of the firearm at the time was technically legal.

Earlier this week, Judge Bruce Schroeder threw out a count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 after Rittenhouse's defense argued the rifle was not short-barreled, capitalizing on an exception to the Wisconsin statute involving the barrel length of a gun.

Myth: Kyle Rittenhouse's mother drove him to the protests in Kenosha

A popular rumor that spread following the August 2020 shootings was the idea that Rittenhouse's mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, drove her teenaged son to the protests.

In a November CNN interview, Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California propagated the falsehood, alleging that Wendy accompanied her son over state lines so he could help law enforcement amid the unrest. But as Rittenhouse testified, the teenager drove himself to Kenosha ahead of the protests.

Rittenhouse did testify that his mother drove him to a local police station to surrender following the shootings.

Unclear: The people Kyle Rittenhouse shot were protesters

Gaige Grosskreutz, a then-27-year-old EMT who survived being shot by Rittenhouse, testified during the trial, telling the jury that he frequently attended demonstrations as a volunteer medic and chose not to affiliate with any particular side. He said he had gone downtown the night of August 25, 2020 — and dozens of other nights that summer — to provide medical aid to anyone in need, regardless of political affiliation.

The motives of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, were less clear that night. Rosenbaum was seen in a number of videos not protesting but causing destruction, setting fires, tipping over a Porta Potty, wielding a chain, and at one point even shouting the N-word. Rittenhouse's defense attorneys characterized Rosenbaum as a "rioter," and even the lead prosecutor said in his closing statement he would have prosecuted Rosenbaum for arson had he not been fatally shot.

Rosenbaum's fiancée told The Washington Post in 2020 that he wasn't there as a rioter or a looter. Just hours before the protests, Rosenbaum had been released from a hospital following psychiatric care for a suicide attempt.

"Why was he there? I have no answer. I ask myself that question every day," she told the outlet.

Huber's girlfriend told the New York Post that she and Huber, 26, were protesting that night. She disputed the defense attorney's characterization of Huber as a "rioter" or "looter." Huber's great aunt, Susan Hughes, also testified at Rittenhouse's trial, saying Huber knew Jacob Blake personally and was upset by his shooting.

Myth: Rittenhouse went downtown on August 25 to answer a 'call to arms' put out by a Kenosha militia group

A "Kenosha Guard" militia group on Facebook did issue a "call to arms" ahead of the violence on August 25. But the tech company later confirmed that Rittenhouse had not been a follower of the flagged page.

Rittenhouse testified that he and Black went downtown because they were invited to guard the Car Source, a Kenosha car dealership, during the unrest and were under the impression they were going to be paid.

The Khindri brothers who own the dealership denied this under oath, but multiple other witnesses testified against them, backing Rittenhouse's version.

Myth: Kyle Rittenhouse is a self-identified white nationalist

The civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Blake family, falsely described Rittenhouse on Friday as a "self-declared white nationalist." But Rittenhouse has never publicly identified as a member of any extremist group.

After he pleaded not guilty to the initial charges in January 2021, prosecutors said Rittenhouse went to a bar in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, where he posed for photos with members said to be of the Proud Boys while flashing a "white power" hand signal.

His legal team said Rittenhouse did not know who the men were or what group they were affiliated with and was unfamiliar with the hand symbol's meaning.

The judge noted that the prosecution did not find any evidence of his affiliation with a white supremacist group in phone records or social media history, and as Michelle Mark previously reported, ruled the trip to the bar was not relevant to the 2020 shooting.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to make clear in graf 18 that Jacob Blake was shot and he survived.

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