MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Kyle Rittenhouse took a stand in his murder case on Wednesday, testifying how he shot three men during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. He faces several charges, including premeditated murder. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, has claimed the men attacked him and he shot in self-defense.
Here is a look at some highlights from his testimony:
‘Normal teenage things’
Rittenhouse said he lived in Antioch, Illinois, just across the state border from Kenosha, in August 2020. He enjoyed swimming, going to the beach with his friends and “just normal teenage stuff.” He was a police investigator for the Grayslake Police Department and a cadet with the Antioch Fire Department. He was also a certified lifeguard trained in CPR, defibrillator use and “basic lifesaving.” He said his father, grandmother, aunt, uncle and a cousin live in Kenosha – an apparent attempt to push back against the prosecution’s portrayal of him as an outsider who went there looking for trouble.
WHY DID HE GO TO KENOSHA?
The protests began on August 23, 2020, hours after a white Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a black man, during a domestic unrest. Rittenhouse said he saw video on social media of the riots.
Two days later, Rittenhouse went to the center of Kenosha and volunteered to clean graffiti from a high school. He met the owners of a car dealership where vehicles had been burned, offered his “condolences” and said he would help. He said the owners asked his friend to protect their business and that he joined his friend and others that night. He took his semi-automatic rifle and first aid supplies. He gave his bulletproof vest – which he said was issued by the Grayslake Police Department – to a friend. He said he felt he would not need it, “because I want to help people.”
WHAT DID HE SAY ABOUT HIS MEETINGS WITH ROSENBAUM?
Rittenhouse testified that Rosenbaum threatened his life twice.
He said he had put out fires and asked people if they needed medical attention when he saw Rosenbaum wearing a steel chain and wearing a mask. Rosenbaum started screaming at him, he said.
“He was just mad about something. He screams, ‘If I catch any of you (statements) alone, I’ll kill you.'”
When he encountered Rosenbaum again later, Rosenbaum shouted, “I will cut your hearts out and kill you,” Rittenhouse said.
He later went with a fire extinguisher after hearing protesters burn cars at one of the grounds his friends were trying to protect. Rittenhouse said he saw a fire in a truck on one of the grounds, after which Joshua Ziminski approached him with a gun. Rosenbaum got out from behind some cars and “assaulted” him, Rittenhouse testified.
He said he tried to run away, but Rosenbaum chased him when Ziminski shouted “get him” and “kill him.” Rosenbaum threw a bag at him, which he confused with the chain. Rittenhouse said he aimed his rifle at Rosenbaum, but Rosenbaum did not stop. He heard a shot behind him, and “I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun,” Rittenhouse said.
He said he shot four times, walked up to Rosenbaum to see if he could help him, and then ran away because people were shouting “get his ass, get him, get him.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO HE RUN?
Rittenhouse said Huber hit him in the neck with a skateboard and someone hit him in the back of the head with a rock, causing him to stumble. A man tried to kick him in the face after he went down. He shot twice at that man, but missed. Rittenhouse said he feared the man “would have trampled my face in.”
Huber hit him in the neck again with the skateboard and grabbed his gun.
“I can feel the strap coming off my body,” he said. “I’m firing a shot.”
The next moment, Grosskreutz ran up to him. He lowered his rifle as Grosskreutz raised his hands in a “surrender” motion. But Grosskreutz held a gun, and when Rittenhouse lowered his weapon, Grosskreutz pointed the gun “directly at my head,” Rittenhouse said. He shot once and hit Grosskreutz in the arm.
WHAT DID HE SAY ABOUT HIS INTERACTIONS WITH THE POLICE?
Rittenhouse testified that after he shot Grosskreutz, he approached a number of police vehicles with his hands up.
“People were screaming and I’m just trying to get to the police,” he said. “I did not do anything wrong. I defended myself.”
He went to a team car and told an officer that he had just shot someone. “The officer said ‘get (the statement) back, otherwise you’ll be pepper sprayed’ and ‘go home, go home, go home,'” he said.
He reported himself to Antioch police about an hour later because Kenosha station was blocked, he said. He said officers made him sit on a chair and wait for the Kenosha detectives to arrive.
“I threw up and had panic attacks and my head was spinning,” he said. “I could not think clearly.”
WHAT DID HE SAY ABOUT HIS MOOD?
A defendant’s state of mind is crucial in a self-defense case. He must show that he reasonably believed that his life was in danger and that the amount of force he used was appropriate to win an acquittal. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger pressured Rittenhouse about his intentions during the cross-examination and asked him if he intended to kill the three men.
“I did not intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who attacked me,” Rittenhouse said.
HAS RITTENHOUSE KEEPED ITS BATTLE?
His youth shone through, for example, when he referred to lawyers as “you.” He often gestured with his arms, simulating how Rosenbaum reached out for him, how Grosskreutz held his hands up with the gun, and how he walked towards the police with his hands up.
Describing how Rosenbaum appeared and chased him, he broke down in tears and Judge Bruce Schroeder asked for a break.
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