Kyle Rittenhouse broke down crying on the stand Wednesday as he tried to talk about the moments leading up to when he shot and killed a man in a parking lot during a night of unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer.
The court adjourned for a short period to allow the 18-year-old to regain his composure.
It was long speculated whether Rittenhouse, accused of intentionally killing two people during protests against police brutality in late August 2020, would take the stand. On Wednesday morning, following the quick questioning of two other witnesses, Mark Richards, Rittenhouse's lead attorney, called him to the stand.
Wearing a dark blue suit, Rittenhouse started his testimony by saying he didn’t go to Kenosha “looking for trouble.” (Rittenhouse had traveled roughly 20 miles from nearby Illinois, armed with an AR-15-style rifle bought for him by a friend.) He said he decided to go to the town because he saw social media videos of violent moments of the protests.
Rittenhouse told the jury that prior to the fateful moment where he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, Rosenbaum had threatened to kill him twice.
“He screamed, ‘If I catch any of you fuckers alone, I’m going to fucking kill you,’” said Rittenhouse. “The second time, he said, ‘I’m going to cut your fucking hearts out and kill you N-words.’”
Rittenhouse said that he next encountered Rosenbaum after being separated from his group and was trying to get to a car lot to put out fires. Testimony from earlier in the trial said Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse and may have reached for his rifle moments before being shot.
“When you see him lunging at you, what do you do,” asked his attorney.
“I shoot him,” responded Rittenhouse.
“I didn’t do anything wrong, I defended myself,” Rittenhouse added later.
When initially talking about his fatal encounter with Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse broke down on the stand and began to sob to the point of not being able to speak. The court adjourned for a short period to allow the teenager to regain his composure. Rittenhouse’s mother also broke down in the courthouse upon watching her son sob on the stand.
Following his breakdown, Rittenhouse spoke with confidence when describing the events of August 25, 2020.
Rittenhouse told the jury that he felt unsafe staying there upon hearing people saying “get him” and decided to try and get to the police. He said that he felt “a mob” was chasing him and the next thing he remembered was his encounter with Anthony Huber. He said that he got “lightheaded and almost passed out” and fell to the ground.
Rittenhouse said he fired two shots because he thought “he would have kicked my face in if I didn’t fire.” (Video shown in court did show a man attempting to kick Rittenhouse.)
“I’m on my back and Mr. Huber runs up, he strikes me in the neck with the skateboard for a second time,” said Rittenhouse. “He pulls at my gun and I can feel it going away from me and my strap pulling against my body.”
“What do you do then,” his defense attorney asks.
“I fired one shot,” said Rittenhouse.
Huber was hit in the chest by Rittenhouse and died. Rittenhouse testified that after killing Huber he saw Gaige Grosskreutz near him with a pistol. He disputed Grosskreutz’s description of the events—that Rittenhouse racked the weapon while looking at him—but agreed that when Grosskreutz advanced on him, he shot him. He said he did not know where he shot Grosskreutz. Grosskreutz was shot in the arm and while he lost a good portion of his right bicep, he survived.
Rittenhouse said that he was able to get to his feet and get to the police line down the road but even after telling them “I shot someone” police they didn’t view him as a threat and threatened to pepper spray him if he didn’t go home. Rittenhouse then returned to the car lot with the other armed militia members but didn’t turn himself into the Kenosha police department.
Rittenhouse also claimed he went to Kenosha to help with "medical support."
The trial is midway through its second week, and the prosecution rested their case Tuesday. Rittenhouse is accused of intentionally killing Rosenbaum and Huber, and wounding Grosskreutz, during that chaotic night of August 25, 2020, when protesters filled the streets two days after a cop shot and partially paralyzed a Black man there.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys are arguing that he shot the men in self-defense after traveling to the protests to supposedly protect a car dealership. He has been charged with one count of first-degree reckless homicide, one count of first-degree intentional homicide, and one count of first-degree attempted intentional homicide, along with several lesser charges.
The day before, Grosskreutz took the stand and testified that he believed Rittenhouse was an active shooter and was scared for his life in the moments prior to being shot. Grosskreutz told the jury that he had a handgun drawn and was fired upon by Rittenhouse when he pointed his pistol at the teenager.
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