Gaige Grosskreutz testifies about permanent injuries to his right arm and hand as he testifies about being shot in the right bicep during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 8, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse shot three demonstrators, killing two of them, during a night of unrest that erupted in Kenosha after a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while police attempted to arrest him in August 2020. Rittenhouse, from Antioch, Illinois, was 17 at the time of the shooting and armed with an assault rifle. He faces counts of felony homicide and felony attempted homicide. | Getty
“I thought the defendant was an active shooter,” the 27-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz said. Asked what was going through his mind as he drew closer to the 17-year-old Rittenhouse, he said, “That I was going to die.”
KENOSHA, Wis. — A protester and volunteer medic wounded on the streets of Kenosha by Kyle Rittenhouse testified Monday that he was pointing his own gun at the rifle-toting Rittenhouse when the young man shot him.
Gaige Grosskreutz, the third and final man gunned down by Rittenhouse during a night of turbulent racial-justice protests in the summer of 2020, took the stand at Rittenhouse’s murder trial and recounted how he drew his own pistol after the bloodshed started.
“I thought the defendant was an active shooter,” the 27-year-old Grosskreutz said. Asked what was going through his mind as he got closer to the 17-year-old Rittenhouse, he said, “That I was going to die.”
Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz in the arm, tearing away much of his bicep — or “vaporized” it, as the witness put it.
Under questioning from the prosecution, Grosskreutz said he had his hands raised as he closed in on Rittenhouse. Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked Grosskreutz why he didn’t shoot first.
“That’s not the kind of person that I am. That’s not why I was out there,” he said. “It’s not who I am. And definitely not somebody I would want to become.”
But during cross-examination, Rittenhouse defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked: “It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him … that he fired, right?”
“Correct,” Grosskreutz replied.
Rittenhouse, now 18, is on trial on charges of killing two men and wounding Grosskreutz. The one-time police youth cadet from Antioch, Illinois, had gone to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle and a medical kit in what he said was an effort to safeguard property from the damaging demonstrations that broke out over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha police officer.
Prosecutors have portrayed Rittenhouse as the instigator of the violence. His lawyers have argued that he acted in self-defense. He could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges against him.
Grosskreutz said he had gone to the protest in Kenosha to serve as a volunteer medic, wearing a hat that said “paramedic” and carrying medical supplies, in addition to a loaded pistol.
Grosskreutz said his permit to carry a concealed weapon had expired and he did not have a valid permit that night.
“I believe in the Second Amendment. I’m for people’s right to carry and bear arms,” he said, explaining why he was armed. “And that night was no different than any other day. It’s keys, phone, wallet, gun.”
He said he went into action after seeing Rittenhouse kill a man just feet away — the second person Rittenhouse fatally shot that night.
On cross-examination, Chirafisi sought to portray Grosskreutz as dishonest in his description of the moments right before he was shot, with Chirafisi asserting that Grosskreutz was chasing Rittenhouse with his gun out.
Grosskreutz denied he was chasing Rittenhouse and said that he was concerned about Rittenhouse’s safety after seeing others chase him and someone try to kick him.
Chirafisi also pointed to Grosskreutz’s lawsuit against the city of Kenosha, in which he alleges police enabled the violence by allowing an armed militia to have the run of the streets during the demonstration.
“If Mr. Rittenhouse is convicted, your chance of getting 10 million bucks is better, right?” Chirafisi said.
At the defense table, Rittenhouse kept his eyes on Grosskreutz as he testified, taking detailed notes when the witness spoke about the moment he was shot.
One juror nodded her head in agreement when the judge instructed the jury to disregard Grosskreutz’s referring to Rittenhouse’s fatal shooting of another protester as a “murder. “
Grosskreutz, who was trained as a paramedic, testified that he volunteered as a medic at protests in Milwaukee in the days after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. Grosskreutz said he attended around 75 protests before the night he was shot, offering help to anyone needing medical attention.
He said he provided medical assistance to about 10 other people that night in Kenosha.
Rittenhouse is white, as are the three men he shot, but the case has stirred furious debate about racial justice, policing, vigilantism and the right to bear arms.
In the first week of Rittenhouse’s trial, witnesses testified that the first man shot and killed, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, was “hyperaggressive” and “acting belligerently” that night and threatened to kill Rittenhouse at one point.
One witness said Rosenbaum was gunned down after he chased Rittenhouse and lunged for the young man’s rifle.
Rosenbaum’s killing set in motion the bloodshed that followed moments later: Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, a 26-year-old protester seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse then wounded Grosskreutz.
Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted.
Grosskreutz has a tattoo on the arm where he was shot. It is the common medical image of a snake wrapped around a staff, and at the top it has a banner that says, “Do no harm” and at the bottom, a banner reading “Do know harm.”
When the prosecutor played graphic video of Grosskreutz’s badly wounded arm, a few jurors seemed to grimace and look away from monitors in the courtroom.
Grosskreutz testified that he has difficulty lifting heavy objects with his right arm and has a loss of feeling extending from his bicep to his thumb.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin; Forliti from Minneapolis.