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Defense attorneys called their first witnesses in Rittenhouse's homicide trial


Defense attorneys called their first witnesses for Kyle Rittenhouse yesterday. The 18-year-old is on trial for killing two men and wounding a third last summer in Kenosha, Wis. He'd gone to that city amid protests and maintains he fired in self-defense. Corrinne Hess of Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

CORRINNE HESS, BYLINE: The first man shot was Joseph Rosenbaum. He was in a used car parking lot when he encountered Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse traveled a short distance from Illinois. He says he wanted to protect businesses from protests and looting following the police shooting two days earlier of Jacob Blake, a Black man. Somehow, there was a confrontation between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum. The question is, which man started it? Witness testimony and amateur video portrayed Rosenbaum as someone spewing racial epithets and daring people to fight. Defense Attorney Mark Richards says he is the catalyst to the chaotic events of August 25, 2020.


MARK RICHARDS: If there was trouble that night, Joseph Rosenbaum was there, and that's ultimately who visited himself upon Rittenhouse.

HESS: But prosecutors say Rittenhouse is to blame. They describe an unskilled teen out for justice and confrontations that led to three people being shot, two fatally. Using the same videos, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger has spent the week trying to set Rittenhouse apart as the instigator.


THOMAS BINGER: Only one person killed anyone that night. Only one person shot anyone that night. When we consider the reasonableness of the defendant's actions, I ask you to keep that in mind.

HESS: The prosecution's case culminated with Gaige Grosskreutz, one of three people shot by Rittenhouse and the lone survivor. But during cross-examination, Grosskreutz's testimony seemed at times to support the defense's claim that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense. Defense Attorney Corey Chirafisi asked Grosskreutz about pointing his own pistol at Rittenhouse.


COREY CHIRAFISI: It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him with your gun - now your hands down, pointed at him, that he fired, right?


HESS: Grosskreutz says he first encountered Rittenhouse after hearing the Rosenbaum shooting and seeing a mob of people chasing Rittenhouse and shouting, get him. He described watching an unknown man knock Rittenhouse to the ground and kick him in the head. And then he saw Rittenhouse shoot and kill another man named Anthony Huber. He says within seconds, Rittenhouse shot him, too. It destroyed most of his right bicep. He was asked by prosecutors why he didn't shoot Rittenhouse.


GROSSKREUTZ: In that moment, I was trying to preserve my own life.

HESS: The defense is expected to call witnesses for the rest of the week, and the trial will likely wrap up early next week.

For NPR News, I'm Corrinne Hess in Kenosha, Wis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrinne Hess