Kenosha police officer explains why he did not arrest Kyle Rittenhouse when he tried to surrender after the shootings

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Kenosha Police Officer Pep Moretti testified on the night of August 25, 2020 in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., Friday, November 5, 2021. Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via Associated Press

  • A viral video showed Kyle Rittenhouse trying to surrender to police officers who ignored him.

  • One of these officers testified Friday that he heard gunshots and assumed an active shooter was still at large.

  • Officer Pep Moretti said he eventually pulled his gun toward Rittenhouse while his partner pepper-sprayed the teenager.

A Kenosha police officer who encountered Kyle Rittenhouse moments after he shot three men testified Friday about why he did not arrest the teenager, who had approached a police van with his hands up and an AR-15 rifle hurled across his body.

Officer Pep Moretti testified on the fourth day of Rittenhouse’s murder case, in which the teenager has pleaded not guilty to having shot two men deadly and wounded a third. Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys have claimed that the then 17-year-old shot the men in self-defense after chasing him.

Last fall, a Viral video showed Rittenhouse walking towards the officers as they shouted at him to get out of the way and drove immediately after the shootings. Critics of the police cited the video as evidence that white suspects like Rittenhouse can get away with murder, while black suspects are handled more rudely in less serious situations.

But Moretti challenged that narrative last Friday. Moretti told the court that there were several reasons why he and his partner did not suspect that Rittenhouse was the shooter – namely that they could still hear active shots as Rittenhouse approached.

“There were still shots around us while we were still out on Sheridan, so we still thought there was an active threat,” Moretti said. He testified that he and his partner’s goal had been to identify the source of the shot.

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Kyle Rittenhouse is sitting before the start of his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Friday, November 5, 2021. Mark Hertzberg / Pool via Associated Press

Moretti also said the presence of Rittenhouse’s AR-15 rifle had not been cause for alarm either, given the context of the evening. Most of the people Moretti met that night were also armed, he said, whether it was with rifles, handguns, bats or other objects.

“We were surrounded all night, all week,” Moretti said. “There were probably more people armed with weapons than not.”

Moretti also said Rittenhouse had not shown the usual signs of surrender. Moretti said people who surrender typically fall to their knees and follow commands. But Rittenhouse ignored their commands and continued to approach their vehicle, Moretti said.

“We instructed him to get out of the way and essentially get out of the way so we could get to where we thought the problem was,” Moretti said.

The officer also shut down the idea that he and his co-officer had treated Rittenhouse gently as the teenager disobeyed commands.

Moretti testified that as Rittenhouse approached the window in the passenger side of the patrol vehicle, Moretti drew his gun at Rittenhouse and Moretti’s partner in the passenger seat spray-sprayed Rittenhouse.

He said he did not know if the spray actually hit Rittenhouse, but it “had the desired effect” as Rittenhouse left the vehicle and continued walking northbound.

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