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. — The jury at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial over a string of shootings on the streets of Kenosha watched one of the central pieces of video evidence Wednesday — footage of a man chasing Rittenhouse and throwing a plastic bag at him just before the man was gunned down.
Someone is heard yelling “F— you!,” followed by the sounds of the four shots Rittenhouse fired, killing Joseph Rosenbaum, though the shooting itself is not clearly seen on camera. Rosenbaum was the first of three men Rittenhouse shot that night, two of them fatally.
“Oh, he shot him! He shot him, man. He shot him. He shot him, man. He laid him out,” the person making the video can be heard saying.
Footage shown to the jury also showed Rosenbaum lying on the ground as frantic bystanders surrounded him to help. He had a wound to his head, and a bystander placed a shirt on it to apply pressure.
The videos were part of a wealth of footage played for the jury that captured the repeated sound of gunfire in the streets and the chaos that ensued after the 17-year-old aspiring police officer opened fire with an assault-style rifle during a tumultuous demonstration against police brutality during the summer of 2020.
Rittenhouse, now 18, could get life in prison if convicted in the 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.
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 who took the stand on Wednesday 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 of the videos played at the trial were found by police on various social media sites.
One showed Rittenhouse saying before the shootings that he was there to protect property and provide medical care to anyone who was hurt.
In one, the interviewer mentioned non-lethal weapons and Rittenhouse responded: “We don’t have non-lethal.” The man filming the video then asked if Rittenhouse was “full-on” ready to defend the property and he replied, “Yes, we are.”
In the courtroom, a serious-looking Rittenhouse cast a downward look at times, at one point just staring at the desk in front of him, as the videos were played. He appeared to take deep breaths.
Earlier, jurors were shown 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.
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.
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.