Rittenhouse trial begins, close friend testifies


KENOSHA, WISCONSIN – NOVEMBER 01: Kyle Rittenhouse listens as jurors are asked questions by the judge during jury selection at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 01, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse shot three demonstrators, killing two of them, during a night of unrest that erupted in Kenosha after a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while police attempted to arrest him in August 2020. Rittenhouse, from Antioch, Illinois, was 17 at the time of the shooting and armed with an assault rifle. He faces counts of felony homicide and felony attempted homicide. (Photo by Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images)

Ja’Qaylin Harrison, Staff Writer

The trial for Kyle Rittenhouse, a young man accused of murdering two men and injuring one during the August 2020 Kenosha, Wisconsin unrest, has begun.

Rittenhouse made his first appearance before the Kenosha County Circuit Court Panel on Tuesday. Since then, the trial has become a battle between the prosecution and the defense, with the latter claiming that Rittenhouse’s actions were in self-defense and hence justifiable. 

“Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself, protected his firearm so it couldn’t be taken, used against him or other people,” said defense attorney Mark Richards. “Mr. Rosenbaum made threats to kill, and the other individuals who didn’t see that shooting attacked him in the street like an animal.” 

The prosecution, however, has painted a different scenario, one in which Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, made the commute from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha with the intent of harming and/or killing someone.

“There were hundreds of people on the street that night, experiencing the same chaos,” said Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger. “The same loud noises, the same gunfire, the same tear gas, the same hostile confrontation with people who believe the opposite of them. And yet, out of these hundreds of people only one person killed anyone that night.”

A second man, Dominick Black, accompanied Rittenhouse to Kenosha and is currently facing charges for illegally purchasing and gifting Rittenhouse the AR-15-style rifle used that night. 

Black said that prior to the incident, he and Rittenhouse had been asked to guard an auto dealership where a friend of Black’s had previously been employed. After arriving at the dealership, the group set up post on the roof.

“I didn’t want to be in the mix of a lot of problems,” he said. “I didn’t want to get hurt.”

Black said that Rittenhouse had intended to act as a medic, choosing to stay on the ground. Rittenhouse later accompanied another man, Ryan Balch, to an unspecified area.

After being alerted of vandalism occurring at another dealership, Rittenhouse made his way to 63rd Street, where he was chased by a group that included Joseph Rosenbaum, who was later shot and killed by Rittenhouse. The defense said that Rosenbaum had gotten into numerous altercations prior to his run-in with Rittenhouse, and even made threats to kill Rittenhouse before attempting to attack him. 

The defense also claims that it was a shot fired by another man, Joshua Ziminski, as Rosenbaum approached Rittenhouse and made him believe he was under attack.

Following this incident, Rittenhouse, who was presumed to be an active shooter, was chased by several people into another area. According to the defense, one of those individuals, Anthony Huber, attempted to attack Rittenhouse with a skateboard, prompting Rittenhouse to shoot him once in the chest, killing him instantly.

Rittenhouse then shot and critically injured Gaige Grosskreutz, who was armed as he approached Rittenhouse. 

Black said that he was stunned after receiving a phone call from Rittenhouse after the shootings. 

“I didn’t believe the gunshots were actually his until I got a phone call, and I answered it, and he just said, ‘I shot somebody, I shot somebody,'” Black recalled.

The two later met in person. Black said Rittenhouse was “really scared. He was pale, sweating a lot. You can tell he was just scared. He wasn’t really talking. He just said he had to do it, it was self-defense, people were trying to hurt him.”

Black later attempted to get Rittenhouse to turn himself in. Rittenhouse refused, saying that they couldn’t do so because of the “rioters” at the police department. The two then traveled back to Antioch, where Rittenhouse would later turn himself in to authorities.

On Wednesday, several videos of the incidents were presented to the jury. 

In one video filmed by Koerry Washington, a social media influencer from Kenosha, Rittenhouse is shown fleeing with an extinguisher in tow just before the shootings. Washington said he followed Rittenhouse, who looked like an “interesting figure.”

“He just looked young to me,” Washington said. “It wasn’t anything malicious. Young person, in a situation. And he had his gloves on, and he was smoking cigarettes and stuff.”
The trial, which has sparked numerous debates on vigilantism, race and the right to bear arms, is expected to last two to three weeks. Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, said that he will testify on his own behalf. 

Rittenhouse, who is facing multiple charges, including two counts of first-degree homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangerment, has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, however, he faces life in prison.