Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two men during the Kenosha unrest. His attorney says he
“The evidence will show that hundreds of people were out on the streets experiencing chaos and violence and the only person who killed anyone was the defendant Kyle Rittenhouse,” Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said.
Yet a defense attorney pointed to Rosenbaum as the aggressor that night, saying he threatened to kill Rittenhouse and another man and chased after the teenager. Rosenbaum, 36, was “ultimately the individual who lit the fuse that night,” attorney Mark Richards said in his opening statement.
Afterward, several people nearby tried to confront a fleeing Rittenhouse, who then fatally shot one man and wounded another. Binger described these people as “citizens” trying to stop an active shooter; but Richards described them as part of a “mob.”
“He acted in self-defense, ladies and gentlemen,” Richards told the jury. “The evidence will show his actions … were reasonable under the circumstances as they existed that night, being attacked by Mr. Rosenbaum.”
The rival narratives mark the beginning of a trial that will test the distinction between self-defense and vigilante killings during the chaotic protests and rioting in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, fired an AR-15-style weapon eight times in all during the unrest: four shots at Rosenbaum, two shots at an unarmed unknown individual, one shot at an unarmed Anthony Huber and one shot at an armed Gaige Grosskreutz, Binger said.
Rittenhouse, now 18, is charged with five felonies: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. He is also charged with misdemeanor possession of a dangerous weapon under the age of 18 and a non-criminal violation of failure to comply with an emergency order. He has pleaded not guilty.
The trial will feature a bevy of video showing Rittenhouse’s movements that night, including infrared video filmed from above Kenosha.
Prosecutors say Rittenhouse’s actions constituted criminal homicide, but his attorneys say he shot the men in self-defense. Wisconsin law requires when a self-defense claim is raised, prosecutors must disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt — a difficult obstacle.
“It’s a pretty substantial burden for the prosecution to do that and I think that’s going to be where the real challenge for them lies,” said John Gross, a clinical associate professor and the director of the Public Defender Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School.
How the night of August 25 unfolded
Some people — including a number who did not live in Kenosha — took the matter of safety into their own hands. Rittenhouse was among them.
Wearing a green T-shirt and a backward baseball cap, the armed Rittenhouse walked the streets of the city on the night of August 25 with a group of armed men, video and photos from the protests show. Hours after curfew, Rittenhouse was walking down the streets near a car dealership holding what investigators later determined to be “a Smith & Wesson AR-15 style .223 rifle,” the criminal complaint against him states.
The complaint says Rittenhouse clashed with people gathered near the car dealership for reasons not specified.
Rosenbaum was unarmed and threw an object that appeared to be a plastic bag at him and missed, according to the complaint. Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse moved across the parking lot and appeared to be in close proximity when loud bangs suddenly rang out and Rosenbaum fell to the ground, according to the complaint.
As Rosenbaum lay on the ground, Rittenhouse made a call on his cell phone and said, “I just killed somebody” as he ran away, the complaint alleges. A journalist who was following the suspect and the victim at the time provided investigators with more details on what happened. He told investigators the man shot was trying to get the suspect’s gun, according to the complaint.
Another video shows the suspect running from the scene followed by people in hot pursuit.
“A person can be heard yelling what sounds like, ‘Beat him up!’ Another person can be heard yelling what sounds like, ‘Hey, he shot him!'” the criminal complaint alleges. In another video, a person yells, “Get him! Get that dude!”
Rittenhouse tripped and fell as people chased him down, and as he lay on the ground, a person identified as Huber approached him with a skateboard in his right hand, the complaint says. Huber appeared to reach Rittenhouse’s gun with one hand as the skateboard hit the teen in the shoulder, the complaint states, and Rittenhouse then shot Huber.
Rittenhouse then pointed his gun at a third male, later identified as Grosskreutz, who was holding a handgun, the complaint states. He was shot in the right arm and took off in the opposite direction screaming for a medic while the defendant walked away, the complaint alleges.
Rittenhouse left the shooting scene still armed and walked toward officers with his hands up, but police passed by him without arresting him, video shows. He ultimately went home and turned himself in at his local police department the next morning.
CNN’s Paul P. Murphy, Brad Parks and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.