Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old charged with killing two people and injuring another during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sobbed Wednesday as he took the stand to be questioned by his defense team.
The judge called for a brief recess after Rittenhouse began hyperventilating and could no longer control his emotions shortly after being asked to describe the moments leading up to the shootings.
Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and grievously injuring Gaige Grosskreutz on Aug. 25, 2020. The then-17-year-old fired an AR-15-style rifle he was too young to buy legally and went to Kenosha to protect Car Source, an automobile dealership located near the heart of the protests.
Rittenhouse’s friend, Dominick Black, is accused of buying the gun used to kill Rosenbaum, a man who chased Rittenhouse into the Car Source parking lot and lunged for his weapon, according to testimony. Rittenhouse, a former police youth cadet and part-time YMCA lifeguard, shot and killed Huber, who swung a skateboard at him. Rittenhouse also shot Grosskreutz in the arm after Grosskreutz aimed a pistol at him.
Prosecutors have painted Rittenhouse as a trigger-happy “tourist” who deliberately inserted himself into the volatile scene with a gun he shouldn’t have had and wasn’t trained to use. Rittenhouse’s lawyers claim he acted in self-defense.
His mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, was heard sobbing loudly within earshot of jurors as she watched her son break into tears, according to the pool reporter in the courtroom.
After the recess, Kyle Rittenhouse composed himself to tell the court he was being chased by Rosenbaum and the only way to get away was toward a Car Source parking lot. He then heard Joshua Ziminski, another protester, instructing Rosenbaum to “get him and kill him,” Rittenhouse testified.
“That’s what I heard,” he said.
The court was presented with video that showed Rosenbaum throwing a plastic bag at Kyle Rittenhouse, but the teenager said he thought it was a chain. While being chased, Rittenhouse stopped and turned to see Rosenbaum closing in.
“I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun,” he said.
Rittenhouse said he didn’t have room to run away because 100 people had gathered.
His lawyer asked, “As you see him lunge towards you, what do you do?”
“I shot him,” Rittenhouse replied.
He said he ran to Rosenbaum after shooting him four times to see if he could help, but Daily Caller video director Richie McGinniss, who was there, “took off his helmet and slammed it on the ground and took off his shirt — I don’t remember what he said — I wasn’t focused on that. I was in shock.”
Rittenhouse said he called Black and told his friend, “I shot somebody. I had to shoot him.”
Rittenhouse testified he heard multiple people shouting, “Get his a**! Get him! Get him!,” and thought his safest option would be to make his way down the street and turn himself in to the authorities.
As he was running, he saw Jason Lackowski, a former Marine armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Rittenhouse said he stopped to talk to Lackowski for a brief moment and told him he had “just shot somebody” and needed help to get to the police station “because a mob was chasing me.”
Rittenhouse said he didn’t remember if Lackowski said anything and that all he could hear was the “mob” shouting, “Cranium him. Kill him. Get him,” which prompted Rittenhouse to take off running.
Rittenhouse testified he was trying to get to the police because he was defending himself.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “I defended myself.”
He said the next thing he remembered was Anthony Huber. Rittenhouse testified Huber held his skateboard like a bat and tried to hit Rittenhouse, who absorbed some of the blow by putting his arm up.
“As I block it, it goes off flying somewhere in the distance,” he said, adding that he became lightheaded, stumbled, and fell toward the ground after being struck twice, once with a rock and the other a skateboard.
When he first took the stand Wednesday morning, Rittenhouse responded no when asked whether he came to Kenosha looking for trouble.
The 18-year-old testified that he saw videos of violence in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020, the day before the shootings, including a brick being thrown at a police officer’s head and cars burning in a Car Source dealership lot.
Rittenhouse said the Car Source owner “was happy we were there.” On Friday, the owner testified he never asked or wanted Rittenhouse on his property.
Rittenhouse’s decision to testify followed a week that did little to paint Rittenhouse as a trigger-happy aggressor on the night of the shootings. At times, the prosecution’s witnesses seemed to lend credit to Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Judge Bruce Schroeder sent the jury out of the courtroom before berating the prosecutor for questioning Rittenhouse about whether he was using deadly force to protect property.
Schroeder accused lead prosecutor Thomas Binger of trying to introduce testimony that he had ruled earlier was prohibited.
Not mincing words, Schroeder accused Binger of trying to provoke a mistrial with his line of questioning.