87th LegislatureCriminal JusticeGunsTexas Officials, Candidates React to Kyle Rittenhouse’s Full Acquittal in Wisconsin Self-defense Case

A prominent Democrat in the Texas House lashed out at Gov. Greg Abbott after the governor tweeted about Rittenhouse’s acquittal.
November 22, 2021
Elected officials and candidates in Texas offered wildly different reactions on Friday to the complete acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old when he killed two men and injured another with an AR-15 at a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020.

Rittenhouse, who is now 18, testified and other evidence at trial showed that he acted in self-defense.

Democratic prosecutors in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, charged Rittenhouse with five felonies, one misdemeanor, and one forfeiture of violating curfew on the night of the incident.

Before the end of the trial, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed two of the charges — the curfew violation and a misdemeanor charge that he illegally carried the AR-15.

After more than 25 hours of deliberation, the jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide, not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, not guilty of two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, and not guilty of one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Rittenhouse had faced a life sentence and several other lengthy prison sentences if convicted.

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After the verdicts were read, Governor Greg Abbott tweeted, “Rittenhouse – NOT GUILTY!”

The governor did not comment on the verdicts beyond that, and Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), the chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, lashed out in response.

Turner wrote, “Sick. From a supposed former jurist and alleged governor.”

Another lawmaker, Rep. Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston), reacted, “Pretty clear statement in support of white supremacy from our Governor.”

Abbott’s challengers in the Republican primary for governor backed Rittenhouse and his acquittal. Don Huffines called it “a victory for not only Kyle but every patriot throughout our nation.” Allen West called the case an “obvious example of self-defense” and Chad Prather reacted, “Not guilty. Justice for Rittenhouse.”

Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running for governor, told NBC DFW on Sunday that he believes the outcome of the case “sets a very dangerous precedent.”

Though all three people Rittenhouse shot were white, skeptics of the not guilty verdicts generally believe that the criminal justice system is structurally racist, and that Rittenhouse was acquitted primarily because he is white rather than the evidence that was presented at trial. Others believe that he went to Kenosha “looking for trouble” and blame him for the deaths and injuries because he went into a chaotic situation armed with a rifle.

Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys argued that he had a right under the Second Amendment and Wisconsin state law to be armed with the AR-15 that night and the judge threw out the weapons charge.

The distance between Rittenhouse’s residence at the time in Antioch, Illinois, and Kenosha is similar to the distance between downtown Dallas and Garland. His father and other relatives live in Kenosha and Rittenhouse worked in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, as a lifeguard at the time of the incident.

The AR-15 was never in Illinois but had been at the home of Rittenhouse’s best friend, Dominick Black, who lives in Kenosha was dating Rittenhouse’s younger sister at the time of the incident.

In a video produced on social media after he left the courthouse, Rittenhouse commented on his acquittal, “The jury reached the correct verdict. Self-defense is not illegal.”

In a preview of an interview Rittenhouse gave to Fox News that is set to air Monday evening, Rittenhouse rebutted some of the claims that have been made in the media.

“This case has nothing to do with race. It never had anything to do with race, it had to do with the right to self-defense. I’m not a racist person, I support the BLM movement, I support peacefully demonstrating,” Rittenhouse said.

“I believe there needs to be change, I believe there’s a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases, and it’s just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of somebody.”


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."