(NEW YORK) — Kyle Rittenhouse took the witness stand on Wednesday to testify in his own defense and began to break down in sobs as he began to describe why he shot the first of three men during a 2020 protest.
Rittenhouse began testifying in a Kenosha County courtroom after telling a judge that he made the decision to testify after consulting with his lawyers.
Under questioning from his attorney Mark Richards, the 18-year-old Rittenhouse began by speaking about his background as a trained lifeguard, a police cadet and a student studying nursing at Arizona State University.
“Did you come to downtown Kenosha to look for trouble?” Richards asked.
Rittenhouse, wearing a blue suit and matching tie, answered, “No.”
Rittenhouse said he went to Kenosha with his sister and friends on Aug. 25, 2020, after seeing online pleas for people to come to the city to help protect it after looting and vandalism broke out after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, leaving him paralyzed.
“I went down there to provide first aid,” Rittenhouse testified, adding that he brought along his medical supplies as well as his AR-style semiautomatic rifle.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. He claimed he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, in self-defense.
Richards directed Rittenhouse to the event of the Aug. 25, 2020, shooting. He testified that he had witnessed a police officer being hit with a brick, another man getting his jaw broken and had been allegedly threatened by Rosenbaum.
He said he got separated from his friends who were guarding three car lots that had been vandalized. He said he was rushing to put out a fire at one of the car lots when he again encountered Rosenbaum and a man named identified by prosecutors as Joshua Ziminski.
“I hear somebody scream ‘Burn in hell,” said Rittenhouse of when he reached the car lot that was being vandalized. “I reply with ‘Friendly, friendly, friendly to let them know hey, I’m just here to help. I don’t want any problems. I just want to put out the fires if there are any.”
Rittenhouse testified that Ziminski pulled a gun and pointed it at him when he approached the car lot with a fire extinguisher.
“As I’m walking towards to put out the fire, I dropped the fire extinguisher and I take a step back (from Ziminski),” Rittenhouse said. “My plan was to get out of that situation.”
But he said before he could get away, Rosenbaum was allegedly bearing down on him and Ziminski and three other people were blocking his path.
“Once I take that step back, I look over my shoulder and Mr. Rosenbaum was now running from my right side, and I was cornered from in front of me with Mr. Ziminski,” Rittenhouse said.
The teenager then began to break down in sobs on the witness stand, prompting Judge Bruce Schroeder to call a recess.
Following the recess, Rittenhouse regained his composure and returned to the witness stand.
Rittenhouse picked his testimony back up at when he saw Rosenbaum charging toward him.
“Mr. Zimenski stepped towards me. I went to go run south,” Rittenhouse said.
He said Rosenbaum began to chase him he heard Zimenski allegedly tell Rosenbaum “to get him and kill him.”
“As I’m running in that southwest direction, Mr. Rosenbaum throws, at the time I know its a bag now,” Rittenhouse said, adding that he initially thought it was a heavy chain Rosenbaum had been seen carrying earlier in the evening.
“I turn around for about a second while continuing to run and I point my gun at Mr. Rosenbaum,” Rittenhouse said.
Richards asked, “Does that stop him from chasing you?”
Rittenhouse replied, “It does not.”
This is a developing story. Please check, back for updates.
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