KENOSHA, Wis. — The teenager who shot and killed two protesters and injured another last summer during demonstrations against police violence in Kenosha broke down Wednesday while taking the stand in his defense.
Kyle Rittenhouse, a former police explorer and firefighter emergency medical technician cadet, said he was not looking for trouble when he traveled from his home in Illinois to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle and a medical kit. He testified that he aimed to help protect the Car Source dealership his friend worked at and to provide first aid to anyone in need.
Defense attorneys argued that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and shot and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27. Prosecutors sought to portray Rittenhouse as the aggressor on the night of Aug. 25, 2020.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Rittenhouse said on the stand Wednesday. “I defended myself.”
Update 5:33 p.m. EST Nov. 10: Kyle Rittenhouse had several tense exchanges with Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger during his cross-examination Wednesday afternoon.
Binger pressed Rittenhouse about his encounter with Joseph Rosenbaum, and the 18-year-old defendant grew emotional again.
Rittenhouse answered that Rosenbaum “tried to take my gun.”
“If he would have taken my gun, he would’ve used it against me,” Rittenhouse added, saying he believed Rosenbaum would have killed him.
When Binger questioned him about Rosenbaum’s state of mind when he approached, Rittenhouse answered, “I don’t know what Mr. Rosenbuaum was thinking when he tried to grab my gun”
Original report: Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder briefly called a break during the testimony after Rittenhouse appeared to hyperventilate while describing the events leading up to his shooting of Rosenbaum.
Rittenhouse testified that he heard Rosenbaum make threatening comments which he thought were directed at him twice before the shooting. Later, he said that Rosenbaum threw a bag at him, and he heard another person with Rosenbaum say, “get him, kill him.”
He said Rosenbaum chased him, gaining on him until he reached a crowd and ran out of space to run.
“As I’m turning around, Mr. Rosenbaum is … coming at me with his arms out in front of him,” he testified. “I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun.”
He said he opened fire, shooting Rosenbaum four times.
Afterward, he said he “was in shock, sort of.” He testified that he heard people in the crowd calling to “get him, get him” after the shooting and that he went to turn himself in to police, saying he thought he’d find safety with authorities.
He said the next thing he remembered was Huber hitting him with a skateboard. He said he tried to block the blow but that the skateboard still hit him in the neck and went flying. Afterward, he said he felt lightheaded, stumbled and hit the ground. He also remembered being struck by what he described as a concrete rock in the back of his head.
On the ground, he said he pointed his gun at people gathered around him and that all but one person backed away. He said the last person, who was never identified, jumped at him and kicked him in the face. In response, he opened fire on the man.
“I thought if I were to be knocked out or – he would’ve stomped my face in if I didn’t fire,” he said.
He testified that as he tried to get up, Huber hit him again with his skateboard.
“He grabs my gun, and I can feel it pulling away from me, and I can feel the strap starting to come off my body,” he said. “I fire one shot.”
He testified that as he was lowering his weapon, Grosskreutz lunged at him with a pistol pointed at his head. He said he shot once at Grosskreutz, injuring him.
“He’s no longer a threat to me,” Rittenhouse said. “There’s only one person in front of me and his hands are up. I briefly point my rifle at him, and I get onto one knee, getting up, and he backs up with his hands up, and I don’t shoot him.”
He said he tried to turn himself in to police, but that as he approached the police line, an officer said, “‘get the (expletive) back or you’re going to get pepper sprayed. Go home. Go home.’”
He turned himself in to police in Antioch, Illinois, the next day.
During cross-examination, Rittenhouse said that he didn’t mean to kill anyone but acknowledge that he used “deadly force.”
“I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was going to kill them, but I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.”
The shootings happened amid protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot several times in the back days earlier. The shooting left Blake paralyzed and added fuel to protests nationwide that had been earlier sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
Rittenhouse faces several charges stemming from the Aug. 25, 2020 shooting, including two counts of first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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