Kyle Rittenhouse: Biden ‘angry and concerned’ after teen cleared of shootings

Kyle Rittenhouse: Biden ‘angry and concerned’ after teen cleared of shootings

US President Joe Biden has said he is "angry and concerned" following the acquittal on all counts of teen Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two men during racial unrest in Wisconsin last year.

The president has sent mixed messages, though, both expressing his concern about the verdict and respect for the judicial system that handed it down.

Shortly after receiving news of the acquittal, Mr Biden said: "I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works and we have to abide by it."

The president later released a more ambiguous statement, which read: "While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken."

"I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy", he added.

Mr Rittenhouse, 18, admitted to fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, 28, but maintained his actions were taken in self-defence.

On Friday, 19 November, he was found not guilty all charges, which included two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety.

In August, 2020, Mr Rittenhouse, then 17, drove to Kenosha, Wisconsin, at a time when the city was in the midst of racially charged civil unrest – two nights of looting, rioting and arson – following the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, seven time seven times in the back, causing him life changing injuries.

The defence argued that the teenager, armed with an AR-15-style rifle, had travelled to Kenosha to protect vulnerable people and businesses.

Three men, one armed with a pistol, attacked Rittenhouse, causing him to fatally shoot two of them.

A third had his bicep shot off after he pointed a gun at Rittenhouse.

The prosecution characterised Rittenhouse's actions as reckless and unlawful vigilantism, and argued that the men who attacked him were attempting to disarm an “active shooter”.

Support or condemnation of Rittenhouse has, predictably, fallen along partisan ideological lines.

Many conservatives saw the wave of civil unrest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in May, 2020, as unacceptable and under-policed mob violence.

In this context, there was a renewed sympathy among conservatives for individuals’ right to defend themselves and their property in the face what was perceived as an eruption of unchecked left-wing political violence.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Rittenhouse’s journey across state lines was cited as an example of an entitled white teenager taking the law into his own hands – resulting in two avoidable fatalities.

Following the much anticipated verdict, Mr Rittenhouse's defence attorney Mark Richards said that his client “wants to get on with his life.”

"He wishes none of this ever happened. But as he said when he testified, he did not start this”, he added.

Karen Bloom and John Huber, the parents one of the men killed by Rittenhouse, said: "It [the verdict] sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street”.

Now an innocent man, Rittenhouse has been encouraged to sue his detractors for defamation.

Conservative pundit Candace Owens tweeted: "There are a lot of people that need to pay for what #KyleRittenhouse lived through and I hope that he does stand up and sue a lot of these people for defamation...including President Joe Biden".

Owens is likely referring to a tweet sent by Mr Biden on his presidential election campaign last year, which appeared to link Rittenhouse to white supremacists without citing any evidence.

Nicholas Sandman, 19, whose hundred-million-dollar defamation suit against the Washington Post was settled for an undisclosed sum, echoed Owens’ comments.

He said: “I look forward to getting in touch with Kyle. He has weathered this trial with grace and I will continue to help him hold the media accountable in any way I can”.