Kyle Rittenhouse sobs on stand, says 1st man he shot in Kenosha threatened to kill him, grabbed his gun


Sobbing so hard at one point that the judge called a break, Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand at his homicide trial Wednesday and said he opened fire during a night of turbulent protests in Kenosha, Wis., after a man chased him down and put his hand on the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle.

Rittenhouse said that after he gunned down Joseph Rosenbaum, he shot another man in the street, Anthony Huber, after Huber struck him in the neck with his skateboard and grabbed his rifle.

When a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz, “lunges at me with his pistol pointed directly at my head,” Rittenhouse shot him, too, wounding him.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” Rittenhouse said.

Rittenhouse, 18, is on trial facing charges of killing two men and wounding a third during a protest against racial injustice in the summer of 2020.

He was 17 when he went to Kenosha with an assault-style semi-automatic weapon and a medic bag in what he said was an attempt to protect property from rioters. He could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges against him.

Rittenhouse says protesters threatened to kill him

Rittenhouse said he was walking toward a Car Source car dealership lot with a fire extinguisher to put out a fire when “I hear somebody scream, ‘Burn in hell!’ And I respond with ‘Friendly, friendly, friendly!’ “

He said Rosenbaum was running at him from one side and that there was another protester with a gun in front of him, “and I was cornered.” He said that’s when he began to run.

He said another protester, Joshua Ziminski, told Rosenbaum, “Get him and kill him.”

Rittenhouse said he heard a gunshot “directly behind me,” and as he turned around, Rosenbaum was coming at him “with his arms out in front of him. I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun.”

Then, Rittenhouse said, “I shoot him.” He also said he thought the object Rosenbaum threw — a plastic hospital bag — was the chain he’d seen Rosenbaum carrying earlier.

Rittenhouse said he intended to help Rosenbaum, but was in shock as someone else attended to Rosenbaum. He said he thought the “safest option” was to turn himself in to police who were on the road nearby.

Rittenhouse carries his weapon as he walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis., before the shootings that attracted national attention in a summer of racial justice protests. (Adam Rogan/The Journal Times/The Associated Press)

When defence attorney Mark Richards asked Rittenhouse why he didn’t keep running away from Rosenbaum, he said: “There was no space for me to continue to run to.”

During earlier testimony, Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum was holding a chain at one point and twice threatened to kill him that night.

Apologizing to the court for his language, Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum was walking down the street with his chain and screamed, “If I catch any of you [expletives] alone I’m going to [expletive] kill you!”

And later that night, he testified, Rosenbaum said: “I’m going to cut your [expletive] hearts out! Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum also called them “N-words.” But he said he didn’t want to repeat the word in court.

When asked by his attorney if he came to Kenosha looking for trouble, Rittenhouse responded no. 

He testified that he saw videos of violence in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020, the day before the shootings, including a brick being thrown at a police officer’s head and cars burning in a Car Source dealership lot.

Judge lashes out at prosecutor over questions

Prosecutors used more than five days of testimony to try to portray Rittenhouse as the aggressor on the night of the shootings. But the prosecution’s witnesses often bolstered the young man’s claim of self-defence, including his fear that his weapon would be taken away and used against him.

During Rittenhouse’s testimony, Judge Bruce Schroeder lashed out at prosecutor Thomas Binger for questioning Rittenhouse about whether it was appropriate to use deadly force to protect property. The judge heatedly accused Binger of improperly trying to introduce testimony that he had earlier said he was inclined to prohibit.

Rittenhouse’s attorney suggested Binger might be attempting to provoke a mistrial with his line of questioning.

Rittenhouse’s decision to testify came despite several legal experts saying that an underwhelming prosecution case had made it less likely he would need to do so.

Rittenhouse is advised of his rights by Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder before testifying in his homicide trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday. (Mark Hertzberg/Pool photo/The Associated Press)

Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum and Huber, and wounded Grosskreutz who, earlier in the trial, admitted pointing his own gun at Rittenhouse just before he was shot.

The case has stirred debates about 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.

Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him. He has pleaded not guilty to all seven charges he faces, including two counts of homicide, one reckless and one intentional, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety.

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