Kenosha, Wes. – Kyle Rittenhouse was crying so hard at one point that a judge called for a break, and stood before trial on Wednesday and said he opened fire during a night of turbulent protests in Kenosha after a man chased him and put him in his place. His hand is on the barrel of a Rittenhouse rifle.
After he shot Joseph Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse said, he shot another man in the street, Anthony Hopper, after Hopper hit him in the neck with a skateboard and grabbed his rifle.
When a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz, “rushed at me with his pistol aimed straight at my head,” Rittenhouse also shot him, injuring him.
“I did nothing wrong,” Rittenhouse said. “I stood up for myself.”
Rittenhouse, 18, is on trial for killing two men and injuring a third during a protest against racial injustice in the summer of 2020.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he went to Kenosha with an assault-style semi-automatic weapon and a medical bag in what he said was an effort to protect property from rioters. He could be imprisoned for life if convicted of the most serious charges.
Rittenhouse said he was walking toward a car source with a fire extinguisher to put out a fire when “I heard someone screaming, ‘Burn in hell!'” And I answer with “Friendly, friendly, friendly!”
Rosenbaum was running toward him from one side and another protester with a gun in front of him, he said, “and I got trapped.” He said this when he started running.
Another protester, Joshua Ziminsky, told Rosenbaum, “Get him and kill him.”
Rittenhouse said he heard a gunshot “immediately behind me” and when he turned, Rosenbaum was approaching him “with his arms in front of him.” I remember his hand on the barrel of my rifle.”
Then he said: Shoot him. He also said he believed that the thing Rosenbaum threw away – a plastic hospital bag – was the string he had seen Rosenbaum carry earlier.
Rittenhouse said he intended to help Rosenbaum, but was shocked when another person came to Rosenbaum. Rittenhouse said he thought the “safer option” was to turn himself into police who were on the road nearby.
When defense attorney Mark Richards asked Rittenhouse why he didn’t keep running away from Rosenbaum, he said, “There was nowhere for me to keep running to him.”
During the previous testimony, he said that Rosenbaum had at one point carried a chain and twice threatened to kill him that night.
Apologizing to the court for his language, Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum was walking down the street with his chain and shouted, “If I catch any of you (expletive) alone I will kill you (expletive)!”
And later that night, testifying, Rosenbaum said, “I’m going to cut your hearts out (expletive)! Tennis court.”
Rittenhouse replied in the negative when his attorney asked him if he had come to Kenosha for trouble.
Rittenhouse testified that he had seen videos of violence in downtown Kenosha on August 24, 2020, the day before the shooting, including throwing a brick in the head of a police officer and burning cars at a car dealership.
Rittenhouse said the owner of Car Source “was glad we were there” and gave permission for the group to be there.
Rittenhouse’s decision to testify came even though several legal experts said the prosecution’s disappointing case made it unlikely he would need to do so.
Prosecutors used the 5-day testimonies to attempt to portray Rittenhouse as the assailant on the night of the shooting. But prosecution witnesses frequently corroborated the young man’s claim of self-defense, including his fear that his weapon would be taken off and used against him.
The jurors were dispatched from the chamber before Rittenhouse began to testify while the judge explained his right to remain silent and the potential dangers of testifying, Rittenhouse repeatedly answered that he understood.
When the jurors returned to the room, they were presented by Rittenhouse on the podium. When Rittenhouse began answering questions, some of the jurors seemed to take extensive notes on their plates.
Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum and Huber, wounding Grosskreutz.
While Rittenhouse is white, like those he shot, the case sparked controversy over vigilance and the right to bear arms and the unrest that erupted across the United States that summer over the killing of George Floyd and other police violence against blacks.
Bauer reported from Madison, Wisconsin; Foody from Chicago; Webber is from Fenton, Michigan. Contributed by Associated Press writer Michael Tarm by Kenosha.
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