Kyle Rittenhouse shot 1st man at close range, pathologist testifies

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The first man killed by Kyle Rittenhouse on the streets of Kenosha, Wis., was shot at a range of just a few feet and had soot injuries that could indicate he had his hand over the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle, a pathologist testified Tuesday.

But it was unclear from video footage whether Joseph Rosenbaum was grabbing for Rittenhouse’s gun or trying to swat it away, said the witness, Dr. Doug Kelley, with the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office.

Kelley was one of the final witnesses for the state before prosecutors rested their murder case after 5 1/2 days of testimony that were aimed at portraying Rittenhouse as the aggressor but often bolstered the young man’s claim of self-defence. His lawyers have suggested the 17-year-old was afraid his gun would be taken away and used against him.

The defence then began presenting its side, calling as its first witnesses people who were on the streets with Rittenhouse that night and described him as pale, shaking, sweating and stammering after the shootings.

Dr. Doug Kelley, a forensic pathologist with the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office, talks about the gunshot wound found on Joseph Rosenbaum’s hand as he testifies on Tuesday. Rittenhouse is charged with first-degree reckless homicide in Rosenbaum’s death. (Sean Krajacic/Reuters)

“He repeats, ‘I just shot someone’ over and over, and I believe at some point he said he had to shoot someone,” testified Nicholas Smith, who said he had gone to the protests that shook Kenosha that night at the request of the owners of a car dealership to protect the business.

“My God, my life might be over,” another witness, JoAnn Fiedler, quoted Rittenhouse as saying. She said he didn’t give any details about what happened but told her he “had to do it.”

Rittenhouse, now 18, killed two men and wounded a third during a night of turbulent demonstrations against racial injustice in Kenosha in the summer of 2020.

JoAnn Fielder testifies that she was part of the group, which included Rittenhouse, that protected a car dealership on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, during the 18-year-old’s trial on Tuesday. (Sean Krajacic/Reuters)

The former police youth cadet from Antioch, Ill., had gone to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle and a medical kit in what he said was an effort to protect property from the damaging protests that broke out over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha police officer.

Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him.

While Rittenhouse is white, as were those he shot, the case has stirred racially charged debate over vigilantism, the right to bear arms, and the unrest that erupted around the U.S. that summer over the killing of George Floyd and other police violence against Black people.

On Tuesday, the jury watched drone video that was zoomed in and slowed down to show Rosenbaum following Rittenhouse, and then Rittenhouse wheeling around and shooting Rosenbaum at close range.

Rosenbaum shot 4 times

Kelley, the pathologist, said Rosenbaum was shot four times by someone who was within four feet (1.2 metres) of him. He testified that Rosenbaum was first wounded in the groin, and then in the hand and thigh, as he faced Rittenhouse, and then was shot in the head and in the back.

Those final two shots were at a downward angle, the pathologist said. Prosecutors have said this indicates Rosenbaum was falling forward, while defence lawyer Mark Richards said Rosenbaum was lunging.

Kelley said both scenarios were possible.

Kelley also said Rosenbaum’s hand was “in close proximity or in contact with the end of that rifle.”

Hand was over gun’s barrel, defence says

Richards pointed out small injuries from soot on Rosenbaum’s hand and said: “So that hand was over the barrel of Mr. Rittenhouse’s gun when his hand was shot.”

“That makes sense,” Kelley said.

The drone footage was the clearest video yet of the shooting that set in motion the bloodshed that followed moments later: Rittenhouse killed Anthony Huber, a 26-year-old protester seen on video clubbing Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse then wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, a 27-year-old protester and volunteer medic who was shot after pointing his own gun at Rittenhouse.

Fiedler, the defence witness, was with Rittenhouse outside the car dealership just before the first shooting, and said they were being shouted at and taunted by protesters, including Rosenbaum. But Fiedler, who said she carried a pistol, testified she never saw Rittenhouse threaten or point his gun at anyone.

Wisconsin’s self-defence law allows someone to use deadly force only if “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.” The jury must decide whether Rittenhouse believed he was in such peril and whether that belief was reasonable under the circumstances.



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