Gaige Grosskreutz, the lone man to survive being shot by Kyle Rittenhouse, said in court Monday that in the seconds before Rittenhouse fired, Grosskreutz believed he “was going to die.”
The high-profile Rittenhouse trial has now entered its second week. Rittenhouse, 18, is accused of intentionally killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding Grosskreutz, during a night of chaotic unrest in August 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, two days after a cop shot and partially paralyzed a Black man there.
Rittenhouse is arguing that he shot the men in self-defense after traveling to the protests from Illinois 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 prosecution began the week by calling Grosskreutz, who gave a complicated, emotional testimony about that night of Aug. 25, 2020. Grosskreutz said the moment he thought Rittenhouse was an “active shooter", during Rittenhouse’s scrum with the crowd, Grosskreutz drew his Glock handgun and got closer to the teenager wielding an AR-15-style rifle. The rifle was purchased by a friend of Rittenhouse, as the accused was too young at the time to buy one.
“At that moment, I felt I had to do something to prevent myself from being killed, and so I decided that the best course of action would be to close the distance between the defendant and then… I don't know,” said Grosskreutz. “I was never trying to kill the defendant. In that moment, I was trying to preserve my own life. But doing so while also taking the life of another is not something that I'm capable of or comfortable doing.”
During Grosskreutz's testimony, Rittenhouse watched closely and took detailed notes. Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi went after Grosskreutz for several inaccuracies between his testimony and what he’d outlined in a lawsuit he's filed against Kenosha and told police at the time—primarily that he wasn’t armed when he was shot.
The defense keyed in on the few seconds before Rittenhouse fired on Grosskreutz. “When you were standing three to five feet from him with your arms up in the air, he never fired … it wasn’t until you advanced at him with your gun down pointed at him that he fired, right?” Chirafisi asked Grosskreutz.
“Correct,” responded Grosskreutz.
Right-wing and pro-Rittenhouse media seized upon the moment and celebrated it as a crucial victory for the defense.
The trial has thus far been polarizing; on the left, Rittenhouse is seen as someone who was out looking for blood in Kenosha that evening, whereas, on the right, he’s viewed as a teenager who killed in self-defense. In some far-right corners, Rittenhouse is actively treated as a hero.
Prior to the discussion about the moment of the shooting, Grosskreutz told the jury that he was a volunteer paramedic who had spent the previous few months giving medical care at protests and tried to work in an apolitical fashion, treating both sides. For the most part, he said he was treating people who just “weren’t taking care of themselves,” meaning a lot of people dehydrated or with sprained ankles. Kenosha was the first time he saw real violence.
Grosskreutz said he had a concealed carry license previously, but it had expired at the time of the shooting.
“I believe in the Second Amendment. I’m for people’s right to carry and bear arms. And that night was no different than any other day," he said. "It’s keys, phone, wallet, gun.”
Last week, the court scrutinized video of the shootings and the moments leading up to it, and interviewed people who witnessed the shooting firsthand or spent time with the defendant that night. A large amount of time was spent analyzing Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person killed that evening.
Rittenhouse first shot and killed Rosenbaum after a confrontation where Rosenbaum chased the teenager in a parking lot. Following the shooting, Rittenhouse fled the scene, allegedly heading toward police officers, while being chased by a group of people. During a confrontation with the crowd, he fell down and from the ground shot Anthony Huber in the chest, killing him. He then shot Grosskreutz in the arm, destroying his right bicep.
The trial continues on Tuesday.
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