“He said he had to do it, it was self defense, people were trying to hurt him,” Dominick Black, 20, said in court in Kenosha. Black testified that Rittenhouse did not indicate whether anyone had a gun or a knife.
Black, who purchased the gun Rittenhouse used in the shooting, was the first witness in a trial that will ask jurors to assess the distinction between self-defense and self-defense.
The trial has started Tuesday, with opening statements as prosecutors and defense attorneys offered competing versions of what happened last August after the police shooting against Jacob Blake sparked chaotic unrest in Kenosha. Prosecutors described Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, as an assailant, but his defense attorney said he only fired in self-defense.
The trial will feature a host of videos showing Rittenhouse’s movements that night, including an infrared video filmed above Kenosha. Most of the facts of what happened on August 25, 2020 are not up for debate – the heart of the lawsuit is rather the analysis of Rittenhouse’s actions and whether they can be considered “reasonable.”
“This is not a thriller,” defense attorney Mark Richards said.
Rittenhouse, now 18, fired an AR-15 type weapon eight times during the unrest: four shots at an unarmed Joseph Rosenbaum, two shots at an unarmed unknown individual, one shot at an Anthony Huber unarmed and a hit on an armed individual. Gaige Grosskreutz, Binger said.
Rittenhouse is charged with five felonies: intentional first degree homicide, reckless first degree homicide, attempted first degree intentional homicide and two counts of reckless first degree security breach. He is also charged with the offense of possession of a dangerous weapon before the age of 18 and the non-criminal offense of failing to comply with an emergency order. He pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors and defense come up with rival theories
Kenosha County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Binger gave the prosecution’s opening statement and said the evidence will show Rittenhouse chased Rosenbaum and shot him four times, including a fatal blow to the back.
After Rosenbaum was shot, several people nearby attempted to confront a fleeing Rittenhouse, who tripped and fell to the ground. The teenager shot twice at an unidentified person who kicked him; he shot Huber, who charged him while holding a skateboard; and then he shot Grosskreutz, who had a handgun in his arm.
Binger described these people as “citizens” trying to stop what they thought was an active shooter. He also pointed out that Rittenhouse was unique in his actions that night.
“The evidence will show that hundreds of people were on the streets in chaos and violence and that the only person who killed anyone was the accused Kyle Rittenhouse,” Binger said.
In response, Rittenhouse’s attorney Richards named Rosenbaum as the assailant, claiming he threatened to kill Rittenhouse and sued the teenager. Rosenbaum was “ultimately the person who lit the fuse that night,” Richards said.
Further, Richards described the three men who confronted Rittenhouse as part of a “mob.” Richards relied on a series of videos and images in his opening statement, an indication of the importance of this medium to the case.
“He acted in self-defense, ladies and gentlemen,” Richards told the jury. “The evidence will show that his actions… were reasonable under the circumstances as they existed that night, being attacked by Mr. Rosenbaum.”
Rittenhouse friend testifies he bought her a gun
Some people have taken the issue of safety into their own hands. Rittenhouse was among them.
Dominick Black, a 20-year-old friend who was dating Rittenhouse’s sister, testified as the trial’s first witness on Tuesday and said he had already purchased an AR-15 gun for Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse was too young to buy and own a gun, but he agreed to pay for the gun, Black said. Black also had his own gun, and they had used those guns when shooting targets in a rural area.
On August 25, 2020, Black and Rittenhouse each took a gun and ammunition and traveled to downtown Kenosha to attempt to protect a car dealership called Car Source, where around six or seven other armed people had gathered.
Black climbed to the roof of the dealership that night because he felt being on the ground was too dangerous, he said. At one point, he heard gunshots in the distance in an area where Rittenhouse was located.
“I didn’t believe the shots were his until I got a phone call. I answered it and he just said, ‘I shot somebody, I shot someone, “then hung up right away,” Black said.
Rittenhouse returned to the dealership “panicked”. They drove to Rittenhouse’s house in Antioch. Rittenhouse surrendered to the police the next morning.
Black has been charged with two counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to a person under the age of 18 causing death, court records show. He pleaded not guilty. He said on Tuesday he hoped the stance would lead to leniency in his case.
CNN’s Paul P. Murphy, Carma Hassan, Brad Parks and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.