Kenosha protest shooter says he was under attack

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Kyle Rittenhouse, goes to trial, U.S. shooting; Kenosha, Wisconsin
Kyle Rittenhouse

A US teenager has told his murder trial he was under attack when he shot three men during a night of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” Kyle Rittenhouse said.

The 18-year-old sobbed so hard at one point that the judge declared a break.

But otherwise, he was composed on the stand, even as he was being cross-examined so aggressively that the judge berated the chief prosecutor with the jury out of the room.

Rittenhouse is on trial on charges of killing two men and wounding a third during unrest that erupted in the summer of 2020 over the wounding of a black man by a white Kenosha police officer.

He could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges against him.

Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, went to Kenosha with an AK-style semi-automatic weapon and a medic bag in what he said was an attempt to protect property from rioters who had set fires and ransacked businesses in the two preceding nights.

Rittenhouse said he shot dead Joseph Rosenbaum after Mr Rosenbaum chased him and put his hand on the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle.

Then Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, testifying he opened fire after Mr Huber struck him in the neck with a skateboard and grabbed his rifle.

When a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz, “lunges at me with his pistol pointed directly at my head”, Rittenhouse said he shot and wounded him.

“I didn’t intend to kill them, I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” Rittenhouse said.

During Rittenhouse’s testimony, Judge Bruce Schroeder criticised prosecutor Thomas Binger for questioning Rittenhouse about whether it was appropriate to use deadly force to protect property.

The judge accused Binger of improperly trying to introduce testimony that he had earlier said he was inclined to prohibit.

Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards suggested Mr Binger might be attempting to provoke a mistrial with his line of questioning.

The case against Rittenhouse has divided Americans over whether he was a patriot taking a stand against lawlessness or a vigilante.

Much of the testimony on Wednesday was centred on the first shooting of the night, since it was Nr Rosenbaum’s death that set in motion that bloodshed that followed.

Rittenhouse said he was walking toward a Car Source lot with a fire extinguisher to put out a fire when “I hear somebody scream, ‘Burn in hell!’ And I respond with ‘Friendly, friendly, friendly!’.”

He said Mr Rosenbaum was running at him from one side and another protester with a gun in front of him, “and I was cornered”. He said that is when he began to run.

He said another protester, Joshua Ziminski, told Mr Rosenbaum: “Get him and kill him.”

Rittenhouse said he heard a gunshot directly behind him, and as he turned around, Rosenbaum was coming at him with his arms out in front of him. “I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun,” Rittenhouse said.

“I shoot him,” he recounted. He also said he thought the object Mr Rosenbaum threw during the chase — a plastic hospital bag — was the chain he had seen him carrying earlier.

Rittenhouse said he intended to help Mr Rosenbaum but was in shock as someone else attended to him. Rittenhouse said he thought the “safest option” was to turn himself in to police who were on nearby.

Asked by his lawyer why he did not keep running away from Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse said: “There was no space for me to continue to run to.”

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