Things we’ve learned from Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial that challenge assumptions about the case

Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial in Wisconsin has been highlighted by the emotional testimony of the 18-year-old man whose actions as a minor have become emblematic of a divided America.

Ever since Rittenhouse fatally shot two people and wounded another just before midnight on August 25, 2020, the case has been seen by many as an example of vigilante justice carried out by an armed teen.

Others viewed what happened during a night of unrest in Kenosha as the actions of a citizen taking up arms to protect businesses from looters and rioters.

Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to five felony charges related to the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man.

Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, were killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27, was wounded.

Trial testimony has challenged many assumptions surrounding the case. As jurors continue deliberations, here is what we’ve learned from the trial:

Was Rittenhouse an outsider in Kenosha that night?

After the shooting, Rittenhouse was portrayed in some quarters as an outsider who showed up in Kenosha and had no business being on the street during nights of unrest.

Rittenhouse testified that he lived in Antioch, Illinois, with his mother, while his father lived in Kenosha.

Antioch is just across the Illinois border.

He had worked as a lifeguard in Kenosha, was part of a police explorer program and knew CPR and basic life support, according to his testimony.

Rittenhouse was staying with his friend Dominick Black, who was dating the defendant’s sister and testified for the prosecution.

Rittenhouse later said he knew he was not old enough to legally buy a firearm, so he asked Black to do so on his behalf.

The night of the shooting, Black and Rittenhouse each took a weapon and ammo and went to downtown Kenosha to try to protect a car dealership called Car Source, Black testified, where about six or seven other armed people had gathered.

Black testified that he climbed atop the roof of the dealership because he felt being on the ground was too dangerous. At one point, he said he heard gunshots go off in the distance in an area where Rittenhouse was.

Nicholas Smith, the first defense witness, testified that Anmol “Sam” Khindri, one of the owners of Car Source, had asked him to help protect the dealership. Smith’s testimony contradicted Khindri and his brother, who told jurors they never asked anyone to protect the car lot.

Smith, 23, said he reached out to Rittenhouse’s friend after he came across a video posted on Snapchat showing Black at the protests the previous night.

Was he there to treat the injured?

According to Rittenhouse’s own testimony, he lied about being an EMT on the night of the shooting. He testified that he is studying nursing at Arizona State University.

At one point during cross-examination, the jury was shown a video in which Rittenhouse falsely tells the camera he was a certified emergency medical technician.

“I told him I was an EMT but I wasn’t,” Rittenhouse testified.

In closing arguments, the state labeled Rittenhouse a “fraud” and compared him to a “quack doctor” who lied about his medical experience.

Did he bring the weapon across state lines?

After the shooting and his arrest, many people questioned whether the then-minor had transported the illegal gun across state lines.

Black testified he had previously purchased an AR-15 firearm for Rittenhouse in Wisconsin.

Rittenhouse was too young to purchase and possess a gun, but he agreed to pay Black for the firearm, Black told jurors.

Black testified that he also had his own firearm, and they had fired the weapons in target practice in a rural area.

Black has been charged with two counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to a person under the age of 18 causing death, according to court records. He has pleaded not guilty. He testified that he hoped taking the stand would lead to leniency in his case.

On Monday, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed the misdemeanor weapons charge against Rittenhouse, now 18.

The charge of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 was punishable by up to nine months in prison. The count was thrown out due to the odd wording of Wisconsin’s gun laws.

Schroeder dismissed the misdemeanor charge, noting that the weapon was longer than the measurements required for it to be an illegal “short-barreled rifle” under state law.

Wisconsin law states, “any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”

A subsection of the statute adds, in part, “This section applies only to a person under 18 years of age who possesses or is armed with a rifle or a shotgun if the person is in violation of s. 941.28.”

The 941.28 subsections state the illegality would only apply to those armed with a “short-barreled rifle,” which is also defined as “a rifle having one or more barrels having a length of less than 16 inches” and “a rifle having an overall length of less than 26 inches.”

Were his victims rioting?

Rittenhouse fatally shot Rosenbaum — who was chasing the teenager and threw a bag at him — and then tried to flee.

A crowd of people pursued the teenager, and Rittenhouse shot at an unidentified man who tried to kick him. He then fatally shot Huber, who had hit him with a skateboard, according to trial testimony and video evidence presented.

He wounded Grosskreutz, a paramedic who was armed with a pistol and later testified pointing it at Rittenhouse. On redirect questioning by the prosecution, Grosskreutz clarified that he never intentionally pointed his gun at Rittenhouse.

The prosecution portrayed people who confronted the teen as “heroes” trying to stop what they believed to be an active shooting.

Prosecutor Thomas Binger, in closing arguments, told the jury that Rosenbaum had tipped over an empty Porta Potty, swung a chain, lit a metal garbage dumpster and wooden trailer on fire, and used the N-word the night of the shooting.

“If he were alive today … I’d probably try to prosecute him for arson. But I can’t because the defendant killed him,” Binger told jurors.

Binger added, “When you commit arson, we prosecute. We don’t execute you on the street.”

Rittenhouse testified he acted in self-defense when he shot four times at Rosenbaum, who he said had threatened him earlier, chased him, thrown a bag at him and lunged for his gun.

Jason Lackowski, a former Marine who testified for the state, said Rosenbaum acted “belligerently” and asked to be shot but was not perceived as a serious threat.

Rittenhouse referred to the three other people he shot at as part of a “mob” chasing him.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse feared for his life when he pulled the trigger.

“Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle. One with a skateboard, one with his hands, and one with his feet, one with a gun,” Richards said. “Hands and feet can cause great bodily harm.”

Grosskreutz testified he pulled out his own firearm because he believed Rittenhouse was an active shooter. He said was a trained paramedic and treated about 10 people that night, including one who had a serious cut after being hit by a rubber bullet.

During his testimony, Rittenhouse said Huber was “holding a skateboard like a baseball bat,” which he swung down, hitting Rittenhouse in the neck. Richards, the defense attorney, said before Rittenhouse shot Huber, the shooting victim “strikes him in the head” and is going for a “second lick,” adding Huber’s “other hand goes for the gun” in Rittenhouse’s hand.

Binger asked jurors to contrast the teen’s behavior with Huber’s actions.

“A man who was there because he knew Jacob Blake, who carried his skateboard everywhere, and who rushed towards danger to save other people’s lives,” Binger said, referring to Huber.

Is he a member of a White supremacist group?

There was no evidence presented at trial about this.

Before trial, Schroeder sided with the defense in denying motions by prosecutors seeking to admit evidence showing what they say was Rittenhouse’s alleged association with the Proud Boys, a far-right group linked to political violence.

The state claimed that months after the Kenosha shooting, Rittenhouse went to a local bar with his mother about 90 minutes after his arraignment. Rittenhouse posed for pictures with individuals seen flashing the “OK” sign, which prosecutors said has been co-opted as a sign of “White power” by known White supremacist groups.

Prosecutors argued that some of the people he posed with were in the “highest echelons” of the Wisconsin chapter of the Proud Boys.

The defense argued there was no evidence Rittenhouse knew who they were. The judge agreed.

“For me to let that in as evidence for a motive that existed four months earlier? Can’t see it,” Schroeder said.

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