KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) – Kyle Rittenhouse told jurors during his murder trial that he tried to get away from his pursuers the night he shot three men during a street unrest in Kenosha, saying he ‘he had never meant to kill anyone:’ I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.
The 18-year-old spent most of Wednesday recounting what happened in a few frantic minutes on August 25, 2020, sobbing so loudly at one point the judge called for a recess.
In an account largely corroborated by video and prosecution’s own witnesses, Rittenhouse said the first man cornered him and put his hand on the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle, the second man hit him with a skateboard, and the third man came towards him with his own gun.
Rittenhouse shot the first two men and injured the third.
His nearly day-long testimony was interrupted by an angry exchange in which his lawyers called for the trial to be set aside for what they argued were off-limits questions put to him by the chief prosecutor.
The judge, although clearly angry with the prosecutor, did not immediately rule on the request. And later that day, he asked the jury to expect oral argument early next week.
Rittenhouse is on trial for the shots he committed during the unrest in Kenosha following the injury of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white Kenosha policeman. He could get life in prison on the charges.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, traveled to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic weapon and medic bag in what the former police and fire cadet said was an effort to protect property after rioters set fire to and ransacked businesses the previous nights.
The case has divided Americans over whether Rittenhouse was a patriot taking a stand against lawlessness or a vigilante.
As he began to cry at the stand and seemed unable to speak, his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, sat on a bench across the courtroom, sobbing loudly. Someone put an arm around her. After the judge requested a recess, jurors walked past Rittenhouse and watched him as he continued to cry.
After the morning explosion, he was largely composed the rest of the day, although his voice seemed to break at times as he underwent difficult cross-examination.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger went hard at Rittenhouse all afternoon during cross-examination, guiding him through each of the shootings. Rittenhouse continually pushed back, saying he had no choice but to fire.
Rittenhouse said he “didn’t want to have to shoot” Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man to fall that night, but said Rosenbaum was chasing him and threatened to kill him earlier.
“If I had let Mr. Rosenbaum take my gun from me, he would have used it and killed me with it,” he said, “and probably killed more people.”
But Rittenhouse also admitted that the strap holding his gun was in place and that he had both hands on the gun. And Binger suggested that Rosenbaum may have tried to push the rifle back.
The prosecutor sought to convey the state’s claim that Rittenhouse created the dangerous situation in the first place.
“You understand that when you point your AR-15 at someone, it can make them feel like you’re going to kill them, right?” Binger asked.
Rittenhouse said he then shot and killed protester Anthony Huber after Huber hit him on the neck with his skateboard and grabbed his gun. Then he injured Gaige Grosskreutz, claiming that the protester had pounced on him “with his pistol pointed directly at my head”.
Much of Wednesday’s testimony centered around the Rosenbaum shooting, as it sparked the bloodshed that followed.
Rittenhouse said earlier that night Rosenbaum was holding a chain and twice threatened his life. Apologizing to the court for his language, Rittenhouse quoted Rosenbaum as saying, “I’m going to cut your heart (expletive)!”
Later that night, Rittenhouse said, he was walking into the parking lot of a car dealership with a fire extinguisher to put out a fire when he heard someone screaming, “Burn in hell! He said he responded by saying, “Friendly, friendly, friendly! “
He said Rosenbaum was running to him to one side and another protester with a gun was in front of him, and he was cornered. He said he had started running and he heard a protester say to Rosenbaum, “Catch him and kill him!”
Rittenhouse said he heard a gunshot directly behind him and, as he turned, Rosenbaum walked up to him, arms in front of him. “I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun,” Rittenhouse said.
That’s when he fired, he said.
Asked by his lawyer why he didn’t continue to run away from Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse said: “There was no space for me to keep running.”
During cross-examination, Binger asked Rittenhouse if it was appropriate to use lethal force to protect property, and also asked about the accused’s silence after his arrest.
At this, the jury was led out of the room and circuit judge Bruce Schroeder loudly and angrily accused Binger of pursuing a series of inappropriate questions and of attempting to present testimony that the judge had previously stated. he was inclined to ban – video made about 15 days before the shooting, in which Rittenhouse watches men leave a CVS drugstore and is heard commenting that he wished he had his rifle so he could shoot them because he thought he ‘they were shoplifters.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Corey Chirafisi, almost suggested that prosecutors were deliberately trying to overturn the trial because the case was “going badly” for them and they wanted a resumption. The defense has asked for the trial to be set aside with prejudice, meaning that if granted, Rittenhouse cannot be retried.
When Binger said he had acted in good faith, the judge replied, “I don’t believe so.”
When he spoke for the first time, his lawyer asked Rittenhouse if he had come to Kenosha to look for trouble, and he said no.
He testified that he saw videos of violence in downtown Kenosha the day before the shooting, including a brick thrown at a policeman’s head and burning cars in a parking lot at Car Source dealerships.
Rittenhouse said the owner of Car Source “was glad we were here” that evening.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin; Chicago foodie. Associated Press writer Tammy Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.
Find full AP coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse