KENOSHA, Wis. — Kyle Rittenhouse testified Wednesday that a man he is accused of murdering threatened to kill him on a night of violent protests in Kenosha last year after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, 18, broke down as he described the events of Aug. 25, 2020, that led to him fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36. Rittenhouse is also accused of murdering Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” Rittenhouse testified Wednesday.
The Illinois teenager was calm to start his testimony but began to cry before the judge called for a morning break in the trial. He returned to finish questions from his defense attorneys, and the court broke for a lunch break as the prosecution cross-examined Rittenhouse.
Prior to the lunch break, Judge Bruce Schroeder, who multiple times raised his voice, berated prosecutor Thomas Binger over his lines of questioning.
Rittenhouse and his attorneys have said his acts were self-defense as he feared for his life that evening. He faces counts of intentional homicide, reckless and attempted homicide and could get life in prison if convicted.
Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum screamed, “If I catch any of you (expletives) alone I’m going to (expletive) kill you!” and later said, “I’m going to cut your (expletive) hearts out!”
When Rosenbaum later chased Rittenhouse, he threw a plastic bag at him, which Rittenhouse said he believed was a chain. He said he heard a gunshot behind him and remembered Rosenbaum’s hand on the barrel of his gun before he began shooting.
“I was in shock,” Rittenhouse said.
How it happened:A visual timeline of violence in Kenosha after police shooting of Jacob Blake
Rittenhouse said he then headed toward the police line to turn himself in, but heard people shouting to attack him as he was walking. He said “a mob” was chasing him and described Huber striking him with a skateboard and a rock hitting his head.
Rittenhouse testified he then felt lightheaded and collapsed. He fired two shots at a man, but missed, he said. Huber then struck Rittenhouse again with the skateboard, Rittenhouse said, and Rittenhouse fatally shot Huber.
As Grosskreutz approached him, Rittenhouse said he saw his hands up but then saw Grosskreutz point a pistol at him. He fired one shot at him, Rittenhouse said.
During cross-examination, Rittenhouse said he used deadly force, but did so to stop the people attacking him.
Rittenhouse said he tried to turn himself in once he reached the police line, but an officer told him to leave the area. Rittenhouse testified a friend drove him home to Antioch, Illinois, and his mother drove him to a police station.
The testimony came a day after the state rested and the defense began its case.
During cross-examination, Binger pressed on the timing of Rittenhouse’s testimony, after Rittenhouse had heard days of testimony and watched video of the shootings. Schroeder admonished Binger for what he said were comments about Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent and not incriminate himself.
“You’re right on the borderline. And you may be over. But it better stop,” Schroeder said.
Later, Binger questioned Rittenhouse an incident, recorded on video, from about 10 days before the fatal shootings. Rittenhouse and his friend were in a car watching people leave a CVS store across the street. Rittenhouse apparently the people leaving the store had robbed it or were shoplifting.
Rittenhouse said, “I wish I had my AR, I’d fire some rounds at them.”
Months earlier, Binger sought to introduce the video as “other acts” evidence he said showed Rittenhouse’s state of mind, his willingness or desire to use deadly force to protect property, without full information.
Schroeder said then he was strongly leaning toward not allowing it.
Defense attorney Mark Richards objected immediately when Binger mentioned the CVS, and the jury was sent out.
Richards asked that Binger be strongly admonished, and said if it happened again, the defense would seek a mistrial with prejudice, meaning Rittenhouse could not be retried.
Binger apologized for not seeking permission from the judge before bringing up the CVS incident, but said Schroeder’s earlier ruling left the door open to raising it at trial.
“Don’t get brazen with me!” Schroeder yelled as he told Binger not to continue the line of questioning. “I don’t want another issue,” Schroeder added. “Is that clear?”
Through much the first five days of testimony, cellphone video and testimony from various participants did little to undermine the defense’s assertion Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. However, new drone video and a medical examiner’s explanation of gunshot wounds on Tuesday may have advanced the prosecution’s on the first homicide.
Contributing: The Associated Press.