500 National Guard troops activated in Wisconsin ahead of Rittenhouse verdict

Kyle Rittenhouse on trial for homicide, attempted homicide during 2020 protest in Kenosha

Kyle Rittenhouse waits for the jury to enter the room to continue testifying during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool) (Sean Krajacic, 2021, Sean Krajacic, Kenosha News, All rights reserved)

KENOSHA, Wis. – The Wisconsin governor on Friday called 500 National Guard troops to Kenosha ahead of the highly anticipated verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Friday that approximately 500 National Guard troops had been activated alongside hundreds of law enforcement officers to ensure public safety as the nation awaits a decision in the Rittenhouse trial.

Rittenhouse, a teenager from Antioch, Illinois, has been on trial for homicide and attempted homicide for the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz on Aug. 25, 2020. Rittenhouse is accused of using an assault-style weapon on the individuals during a protest in Kenosha. Demonstrators gathered that day to protest the police shooting of Black civilian Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back amid a domestic dispute, leaving him paralyzed.

Rittenhouse has claimed self defense in the three shootings, while prosecutors argue that the violence ensued because the then-17-year-old chose to go to Kenosha amid the protests and walk the streets with a rifle.

The now-18-year-old is facing seven charges, including first-degree reckless homicide, attempted homicide and possession of a dangerous weapon as a minor.

The defense for Rittenhouse rested its case on Friday. Closing arguments in the trial are expected Monday, after which 12 of the 18 jurors who heard the case will be randomly selected to deliberate.

If convicted of the most serious charge against him, Rittenhouse would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Read more: Defense rests its case at murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse

“We continue to be in close contact with our partners at the local level to ensure the state provides support and resources to help keep the Kenosha community and greater area safe,” said Wisconsin Gov. Evers. “The Kenosha community has been strong, resilient, and has come together through incredibly difficult times these past two years, and that healing is still ongoing. I urge folks who are otherwise not from the area to please respect the community by reconsidering any plans to travel there and encourage those who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights to do so safely and peacefully.”

Evers said the troops will be stationed nearby in “standby” mode, and will be deployed if necessary. Troops will not be allowed to impede peaceful protests, the governor said.

Gov. Evers also activated 500 National Guard troops in January of this year, ahead of a decision to charge or not charge police officers involved in the Blake shooting. No charges were brought against Rusten Sheskey, the officer who shot Blake. Two other police officers on the scene during that shooting returned to work in January.

Related: EXPLAINER: Did Rittenhouse lawyers do enough to prevail?

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.