KENOSHA, Wisconsin: Kyle Rittenhouse testified Wednesday (November 10) that he was under attack when he killed two men and injured a third with his rifle during a chaotic night of protests in Kenosha, saying, “I did nothing wrong. I defended myself. . “
In a high-stakes game, the 18-year-old took a stand at his murder trial to tell his side about what happened on the street that day in the summer of 2020, sobbing so hard at one point that the judge called a break.
In a statement largely confirmed by video and the prosecutor’s own witnesses, Rittenhouse said the first man took him in a corner and put his hand on the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle, the second man hit him with a skateboard and the third man received him with his own weapon.
His testimony was interrupted by an angry exchange in which his lawyers demanded a trial on what they claimed were off-limits questions asked of him by the chief prosecutor.
The judge, although clearly angry with the prosecutor, did not immediately decide on the request. And later in the day, he instructed the jury to expect final arguments early next week.
Rittenhouse, 18, is facing trial for the shootings he committed during the riots that erupted in Kenosha over Jacob Blake, a black man, being wounded by a white Kenosha police officer. He could face life in prison.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, went to Kenosha with a semi-automatic AR-style weapon and a medical bag in what the former police youth cadet said was an attempt to protect property after insurgents had set fire to and searched businesses earlier nights.
The case has divided Americans over whether Rittenhouse was a patriot who took a stand against lawlessness or a vigilante.
“I did not intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who attacked me,” said Rittenhouse, who after his morning break was largely composed for the rest of the day, although his voice sometimes seemed to break when he ended up in tough cross-examination.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger walked hard on Rittenhouse all afternoon during the cross-examination, leading him through each shooting. Rittenhouse kept pushing back.
Rittenhouse said he “did not want to shoot” Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man to fall that night, but said Rosenbaum was chasing him and had threatened to kill him earlier.
“If I had let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it,” he said, “and probably killed more people.”
But Rittenhouse also acknowledged that the strap holding his gun was in place and that he had both hands on the weapon.
Binger tried to drive home the state’s claim that Rittenhouse created the dangerous situation that led to bloodshed that night.
“You understand that when you aim your AR-15 at someone, it can make them feel like you’ll kill them, right?” asked Binger.
Rittenhouse testified that he then shot and killed protester Anthony Huber after Huber hit him in the neck with his skateboard and grabbed his gun. He then wounded Gaige Grosskreutz and said that the protester made an attack on him “with his pistol aimed directly at my head.”
Rittenhouse’s decision to testify involved risks, including the possibility of violent cross-examination. And some legal experts expressed doubts about the need to put him in place, given that some of the prosecution’s own witnesses have already strengthened his claim of self-defense.
Much of the testimony on Wednesday was centered on the shooting of Rosenbaum, as it triggered the bloodshed that followed.
Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum had been in a chain earlier that evening and had twice threatened his life. Rittenhouse apologized to the court for his language and quoted Rosenbaum as saying: “I will cut out your (statement) hearts!”
Later that night, Rittenhouse said, he walked toward a car dealer’s yard with a fire extinguisher to put out a fire when he heard someone shout, “Burn in hell!” He said he responded by saying “Friendly, friendly, friendly!”
He said that Rosenbaum ran towards him from one side and that another protester with a gun was in front of him, and that he ended up in a corner. He said he started running, and he heard a protester say to Rosenbaum, “Grab him and kill him!”
Rittenhouse said he heard a shot behind him, and when he turned around, Rosenbaum came towards him with his arms out in front of him. “I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun,” Rittenhouse said.
That was when he shot, he said.
He also said he thought the object Rosenbaum threw during the hunt – a plastic hospital bag – was the chain he had seen before.
Asked by his lawyer why he did not continue to flee from Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse said: “There was no room for me to keep running.”
During the cross-examination, Binger Rittenhouse asked if it was appropriate to use lethal force to protect property and also asked questions about the defendant’s silence after the arrest.
The jury was then led out of the room, and circuit judge Bruce Schroeder loudly and angrily accused Binger of following a wrong line of interrogation and trying to introduce testimony that the judge had previously said he was inclined to ban.
Rittenhouse lawyer Corey Chirafisi almost suggested that prosecutors deliberately try to cause a trial because the case “goes badly” for the prosecutor and it wants a do-over. The defense asked for a trial with prejudice, which means that if one is granted, Rittenhouse can not be tried again.
When Binger said he had acted in good faith, the judge replied: “I do not believe it”.
When Rittenhouse broke down in sobs, his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, who was sitting on a bench across the courtroom, was also crying loudly, and someone next to her put an arm around her.
When he first took the position, Rittenhouse was asked by his lawyer if he came to Kenosha looking for problems, and he said no.
He testified that he saw videos of violence in central Kenosha the day before the shooting, including a brick thrown at a police officer’s head and cars burning in a basement.
Rittenhouse said the Car Source owner “was glad we were there” that night.