- Defense files motion to quash trial for inadmissible evidence
- Rittenhouse accused of killing two men, injuring a third
KENOSHA, Wis., Nov. 10 (Reuters) – US teenager Kyle Rittenhouse said during his murder trial on Wednesday that he shot two men and injured a third with an AR-15 type rifle during chaotic justice protests racial to protect himself after being attacked, at one point collapsing sobbing on the witness stand.
In dramatic and risky testimony in his own defense, Rittenhouse, 18, introduced himself as willing to help others by providing medical aid and putting out fires during last year’s protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He said he only used his weapon after being attacked and ambushed.
Prosecutors sought to portray Rittenhouse as a vigilante who carried an assault-type weapon in a volatile melee and wanted to use it, questioning him about his ammunition and violent video games.
âI did what I needed to do to stop the person attacking me,â Rittenhouse said during questioning by Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger.
“By killing them? Binger asked.
“Two of them died but I prevented the threat from attacking me,” replied Rittenhouse, whose testimony ended Wednesday in the trial, which the judge said could be finished by Monday. or Tuesday.
“Using deadly force?” Binger asked.
âI used deadly force,â Rittenhouse said. “… I didn’t know if it was going to kill them. But I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.”
Rittenhouse is charged with the murder of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and the injury of Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, during the protests on August 25, 2020. Rittenhouse, 17 at the time of the murders, has pleaded not guilty.
Rittenhouse has become a divisive figure, with politics running through the affair. He is a hero to some conservatives who believe in unfettered gun law and see shootings as justified during the chaos of Kenosha. Many on the left see Rittenhouse as a symbol of a crazy American gun culture.
On the night of the shooting, Kenosha had experienced two nights of tumultuous protests sparked by the police shooting on a black man, Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed from waist to toe.
Several businesses were set on fire and there was looting. Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to control the crowds, which included men wearing military-style clothing and guns who clashed with the sometimes violent protesters.
Dressed in a navy blue suit and dark blue tie, Rittenhouse was initially dialed in on the witness stand until his lawyer asked him to detail his meeting with Rosenbaum, whom he shot four times. Video evidence showed Rosenbaum chasing and throwing a plastic bag at Rittenhouse before the fatal encounter. Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum grabbed his gun.
“I didn’t notice Mr. Rosenbaum until he got out of behind the car and ambushed me,” Rittenhouse said, before he began to breathe heavily and lose his temper, shedding tears and sobs, prompting the judge to ask for a break.
Some jurors looked at him sympathetically as he cried. Rittenhouse’s mother was sobbing in the courtroom looking at her son.
Earlier that night, Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum had twice threatened to kill him, first saying he would kill the teenager if he caught him alone, and then telling a group with whom it was “I’m going to cut your heart out.” The fiance of the killed man testified that Rosenbaum had bipolar disorder.
Rittenhouse faces a misdemeanor charge of minor possession of his weapon as well as five felony counts.
“NOT TO BE EFFECTIVE”
The defense filed a motion to quash the trial after Binger questioned Rittenhouse about his decision to remain silent so far, as is his right, and about a video recorded two weeks before the shooting in which the teenager was about shooting men he thought was shoplifting in a drugstore.
Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder had previously ruled the video inadmissible. He broke into Binger after the jury left the courtroom and said he would consider the motion to quash the trial.
âWhen you say you were acting in good faith, I don’t believe you,â the judge told Binger.
The prosecution asked Rittenhouse why he took it upon himself to carry a gun and offer the assistance normally provided by local authorities in a dangerous situation.
The teenager, who had taken first aid courses, brought a medical kit and testified that he helped people with minor injuries. He said he was there to help keep a used car dealership.
âI brought the gun for my protection,â Rittenhouse said. “I didn’t want to have to kill anyone that night.”
Rittenhouse said that when shooting Rosenbaum he had his previous threats in mind and was also shaken by a gunshot fired nearby by another man, Joshua Ziminski. Rosenbaum had also wrapped his red shirt around his head, obscuring his face.
Binger has repeatedly asked Rittenhouse if he understands the power of his rifle and that Rosenbaum and the others similarly could have viewed him as a threat. While acknowledging that Rosenbaum was unarmed, he replied that he had no choice.
“I pointed it out because he kept running towards me and I didn’t want him chasing me,” Rittenhouse said. “I kept shooting until he was no longer a threat to me.”
Rittenhouse said he shot Huber, who threw a skateboard at him, because he shot his rifle, and he shot Grosskreutz, who was armed with a handgun, because that he had aimed the gun “directly” at the teenager’s head.
Reporting by Nathan Lane in Kinosha and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Grant McCool
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