Kyle Rittenhouse whispers to his attorney Corey Chirafisi on Wednesday during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse. | Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP Pool
Rittenhouse is charged with killing two men and wounding a third during the summer of 2020 in a case that has stirred furious debate over self-defense, vigilantism, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and the racial unrest after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
KENOSHA, Wis. — Prosecutors at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial Wednesday played video for the jury that captured the repeated sound of gunfire in the streets as they began recounting the night Rittenhouse shot three people, two fatally, during a tumultuous demonstration against police brutality.
In one of the bystander videos livestreamed that night by Koerri Washington, a social media influencer from Kenosha, Rittenhouse can be seen running through the frame, carrying a fire extinguisher.
Washington said he followed the 17-year-old Rittenhouse after noticing him earlier that evening.
“He just looked kind of young to me,” Washington said. “And he had these gloves on and he was smoking cigarettes and stuff. … He kind of seemed like an interesting figure, so I just took a mental note of that. It wasn’t anything, I wouldn’t say malicious, just a young person in a situation.”
Shortly after Rittenhouse is seen, the video captures the sound of one gunshot, which was fired into the air by someone in the crowd, according to authorities. The defense has said that that shot made Rittenhouse think he was under attack.
That was followed by four quick shots, which prosecutor Thomas Binger said were Rittenhouse firing at Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man killed that night. After a short pause, three more gunshots can be heard; prosecutors said it is unclear who fired them.
Washington, who was on a skateboard, said that when he heard the shots, he “skated away to safety.”
Rittenhouse, now 18, is charged with opening fire with an assault-style rifle during the summer of 2020 in a politically polarizing case that has stirred furious debate over self-defense, vigilantism, the right to bear arms, and the racial unrest that erupted around the U.S. after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases like it.
Rittenhouse, a one-time police youth cadet, could get life in prison if convicted.
The teenager traveled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois after violent protests broke out over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer. Rittenhouse said he went there to protect property after two nights in which rioters set fires and ransacked businesses.
During opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors portrayed him as the instigator of the bloodshed, while his lawyer argued that he acted in self-defense after Rosenbaum tried to grab his gun and others in the crowd kicked him in the face and hit him in the head with a skateboard.
A Kenosha detective took the stand on Wednesday and detailed injuries Rittenhouse suffered that night, all seemingly minor: a half-inch scratch above his eyebrow, a small cut inside his lower lip, a 2-inch scratch below his collarbone, a 2-inch scratch on his forearm, a scratch on his back and two bumps the size of pennies on his head.
Many jurors seemed to jot down extensive notes when testimony turned to the level of violence at the Kenosha protests, which included protesters throwing firebombs and rocks on the night of the shooting.
Many members of the jury seemed especially attentive when a defense attorney during cross-examination played video of dozens of cars in a used-car lot on fire the day before the shooting. Prosecutors have emphasized an absence of deadly violence, other than from Rittenhouse, on the night of the killings.
The first witness in the trial was a friend who testified that Rittenhouse was pale, “freaking out” and “really scared” moments after shooting the three men. Rittenhouse said he had to do it because “people were trying to hurt him,” said the witness, Dominick Black.
Black, who was dating Rittenhouse’s sister at the time, faces his own trial for buying the 17-year-old Rittenhouse an AR-15-style rifle he wasn’t old enough to legally possess.
Black testified that he and Rittenhouse had armed themselves and gone to downtown Kenosha to help protect a car dealership after vehicles were burned the night before. He also said Rittenhouse helped give medical aid and put out fires.
Moments after shooting the 36-year-old Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, a protester from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, who was seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard.
Defense attorney Mark Richards portrayed Rittenhouse as the victim, saying that Rosenbaum “lit the fuse that night” and that Huber was “trying to separate the head from the body” with the skateboard.
Rittenhouse then wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, a protester from West Allis, Wisconsin, who had a gun in his hand as he stepped toward Rittenhouse.