Man Shot by Kyle Rittenhouse Describes the Encounter on a Kenosha Street
KENOSHA, Wis. — Gaige Grosskreutz, the only person who survived being shot by Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020, took the witness stand on Monday and described the instant he faced Mr. Rittenhouse, who had just fired several shots with a semiautomatic rifle.
“What was going through your mind at this particular moment?” Thomas Binger, the prosecutor, asked in court.
“That I was going to die,” Mr. Grosskreutz, a volunteer paramedic, said.
As the prosecution’s case in the homicide trial of Mr. Rittenhouse nears an end, Mr. Grosskreutz, 28, calmly delivered testimony for several hours as a star witness for the state. But his testimony at times lent support to Mr. Rittenhouse’s central claim, that he was acting in self-defense when he shot Mr. Grosskreutz and two other men. The testimony underscored a broader challenge for prosecutors, who face the burden of disproving the scenario laid out by Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers.
Those lawyers have argued that Mr. Rittenhouse fired in self-defense during a chaotic, lawless night in Kenosha on the third night of protests and rioting after the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Aug. 23, 2020. The first man Mr. Rittenhouse shot, Joseph Rosenbaum, was erratic and threatening to people on the street that night, the defense has said, and in the split second before Mr. Rittenhouse shot him, Mr. Rosenbaum lunged in his direction and reached for his weapon. After Mr. Rittenhouse shot him four times and fled down the street, he shot two others who were pursuing him, Anthony Huber and Mr. Grosskreutz.
“I thought that the defendant was an active shooter,” said Mr. Grosskreutz, who also testified that he came to the protests to provide medical help to people who needed it.
Under cross-examination by a lawyer for Mr. Rittenhouse, Mr. Grosskreutz gave testimony that suggested his role in the events of Aug. 25, 2020, was complicated. Like Mr. Rittenhouse, Mr. Grosskreutz was armed that night, and he was asked why he had falsely told police detectives shortly after the shooting that his Glock pistol had fallen out of its holster that night — rather than saying he had pulled it out, as visual evidence showed. Under questioning, he also acknowledged that he was carrying the gun concealed without a valid permit to do so and that he had denied a request from the police in September 2020 to interview him about the shootings.
As Mr. Grosskreutz described the seconds before Mr. Rittenhouse shot him, he was shown photos that captured him pointing his gun at Mr. Rittenhouse.
“So when you were standing three to five feet from him with your arms up in the air, he never fired, right?” Corey Chirafisi, a defense lawyer, asked.
“Correct,” Mr. Grosskreutz answered.
“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?” Mr. Chirafisi said.
“Correct,” he said.
Through five days of testimony, several witnesses who have been called by the prosecution have offered accounts that were complex, rather than plainly favorable to the state’s case against Mr. Rittenhouse. Some witnesses have given testimony that was ambiguous — helpful to the prosecution at some moments and helpful to the defense at others.
One witness, Richie McGinniss, a videographer for The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion site, who was standing near Mr. Rittenhouse at the time of the first shooting, told the jury his life was at risk by the shots Mr. Rittenhouse fired. The testimony offered support to a count of reckless endangerment that is among six charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, in the prosecution’s criminal complaint.
Mr. McGinniss gave searing and emotional testimony of the trauma and personal danger that he endured, telling the jury that he stepped out of the line of fire just before Mr. Rittenhouse shot Mr. Rosenbaum, 36, and had to stamp his own legs on the ground afterward to make sure he had not been hit by a bullet.
Mr. McGinniss recalled on the stand how he had tried to save Mr. Rosenbaum’s life, applying pressure to his wounds and loading him into a vehicle to take him to a hospital. When the two were in the back of the S.U.V. together, as Mr. Rosenbaum was dying, Mr. McGinniss tried to reassure him, he testified.
“I was just telling him that we’re going to have a beer together afterwards, and it was all going to be OK,” Mr. McGinniss, visibly shaken at the memory, told the courtroom.
But Mr. McGinniss also offered what could be the defense’s most crucial witness testimony: that he saw Mr. Rosenbaum chase Mr. Rittenhouse into a parking lot, lunge at him and reach for the barrel of his rifle.
“He threw his momentum toward the weapon,” Mr. McGinnis said in court.
Another prosecution witness, Kariann Swart, testified last week that she was the fiancée of Mr. Rosenbaum and perhaps the last person close to him to see him alive, giving an account of their relationship to the jury and describing her anguish at hearing that he had been killed.
On the morning after he was fatally shot, she said, she went to the parking lot and saw the mark on the pavement where he had been slain.
“I put my hand in it, and my hand was wet with his blood,” she said. “I collapsed on the ground.”
But Ms. Swart also gave testimony that concurred with an assertion by the defense that Mr. Rosenbaum was behaving strangely in the hours before he was killed.
She said that on the day of the shooting, Mr. Rosenbaum was released from a hospital and that he was taking medications for bipolar disorder and depression. When Mr. Rosenbaum visited her at the motel where she was staying, Ms. Swart said, she had specifically told him not to go to downtown Kenosha, where the unrest had been occurring for several nights in a row. He went anyway, carrying a small plastic bag of items from the hospital, she said.
Jason Lackowski, another prosecution witness and one of the armed men who was in Kenosha that night with the goal of protecting property, told the court last week that Mr. Rosenbaum was “a babbling idiot,” downplaying the threat that Mr. Rosenbaum might have posed to Mr. Rittenhouse.
But he also testified that in the minutes after the shootings, he found Mr. Grosskreutz’s pistol lying on the street and emptied its chamber.
Dan Hinkel contributed reporting.