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Attorneys Face Off Painting Kyle Rittenhouse As Both The Aggressor And Victim As Trial Begins

Prosecutors have argued that on a night of chaos, Kyle Rittenhouse was the "only person who killed anyone" after he fatally shot two unarmed men and injured a third man, while his defense team contends that Rittenhouse was acting to protect himself.

By Jill Sederstrom
Kyle Rittenhouse Ap

On the first day of trial, Kyle Rittenhouse was presented both as an aggressor who gunned down and killed two unarmed protesters and a man desperately acting in self-defense.

A jury of 20 people—including 11 women and 9 men—heard vastly differently portrayals of what occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 25, 2020 as protesters took to the streets for a third night of protests and property destruction in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot seven times by a police officer.

The jury will be narrowed down to just 12 jurors before deliberations begin, CNN reports.

Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, armed himself with an AR-15-style weapon and joined a group of militia that told reporters they were on-hand to protect local businesses and help anyone harmed in the protests.

Yet, according to prosecutor Thomas Binger, the night took a violent turn when Rittenhouse fired his weapon eight times, firing four shots that killed unarmed Joseph Rosenbaum, one fatal shot to unarmed Anthony Huber, another shot to injure armed Gaige Grosskreutz and two more shots at an unknown individual caught in the melee, according to the news outlet.

Rittenhouse is now facing charges including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two felony counts of recklessly endangering safety in connection to the violent night.

Binger argued that Rittenhouse chased down Rosenbaum and shot him in the back as he was trying to flee. He contended the victims had been “citizens” attempting to stop what they thought was an active shooter and said despite the protesters and outsiders that had been drawn to the area that night “like moths to a flame,” Rittenhouse was the only one that turned the protest deadly.

“The evidence will show that hundreds of people were out on the streets experiencing chaos and violence and the only person who killed anyone was the defendant Kyle Rittenhouse,” he said.

Binger told jurors although it's not clear exactly what transpired between Rittenhouse and Rosembaum before the fatal shot was fired, evidence will show that Rittenhouse had started the confrontation which prompted Rosenbaum to chase the teen through a parking lot, Fox News reports.

He contends Rosenbaum was shot in the back after throwing a plastic bag and emphasized that for a jury to determine Rittenhouse had acted reasonably, they would have to determine that the 17-year-old believed deadly force was necessary to prevent his imminent death or prevent great bodily harm.

Defense attorney Mark Richards disputed the prosecution’s account in his own opening statement, telling the jury that Rosenbaum had “lit the fuse that night” and instigated the violence after he threatened to kill Rittenhouse and tried to grab Rittenhouse’s weapon and take it away from him to “use against him.”

He argued that Rittenhouse, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, had acted in self-defense and described all three men who had been shot as part of a “mob” that was attacking the teen.

“He acted in self-defense, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, according to CNN. “The evidence will show this actions … were reasonable under the circumstances as they existed that night, being attacked by Mr. Rosenbaum.”

On Tuesday, prosecutors also called their first witness, Rittenhouse’s friend and his sister’s boyfriend Dominick Black, 20, who told the jury he had purchased the rifle for the teen months earlier because Rittenhouse was underage.  

The pair went to Kenosha the night of the shootings to protect a car dealership and joined up with others. Black said he had been on the rooftop of the dealership when he heard shots, but didn’t realize Rittenhouse had been involved until the teen called him.

“I shot somebody, I shot somebody,” he allegedly said before hanging up.

Black testified that after the shooting, Rittenhouse was “freaking out.”

“He was really scared,” Black said, according to CNN. “He was pale, shaking a lot.”

He told Black that he had fired the shots because “people were trying to hurt him.”

Attorneys on both sides are expected to rely heavily on video footage captured the night of the shootings as they try to piece together what happened that night.

On Tuesday, social media influencer Koerri Washington took the stand late in the day and returned Wednesday morning to share Facebook Live video he had captured that night, which showed a crowd yelling at a group of armed men including Rittenhouse, local station WISN reports.

"There was lots happening," he told the jury of why he captured the footage, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I wanted to help create transparency, so there's a record of things."

He described Rosenbaum as acting erratically—although he said he only noticed this after watching video after the fatal shooting—and said Rittenhouse had been chain smoking and seemed nervous.

Grosskreutz, the victim who survived the shooting, may also take the stand Wednesday, according to the local paper.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks and defense attorneys indicted that Rittenhouse is expected to take the stand to defend his actions.