The only protester shot by Kyle Rittenhouse to survive said he saw him as an “active shooter”, stressing that he confronted Rittenhouse with a gun to prevent further bloodshed.
Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, offered potentially critical testimony on Monday to a jury that must decide whether the United States teenager justifiably feared for his life when he opened fire with his rifle.
Grosskreutz, who had a gun in his hand as he stepped towards Rittenhouse, was shot in the arm moments after Rittenhouse fatally shot two others in the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin amid chaotic racial justice protests.
“I thought that the defendant was an active shooter,” Grosskreutz told the jury on Monday.
Grosskreutz added that he had his hands in the air when he was shot, asserting that he never intended to use the gun he was holding. “At that moment, I felt that I had to do something to try and prevent myself from being killed or shot,” Grosskreutz said.
Testimony during the first week of Rittenhouse’s trial showed bystanders came to Grosskreutz’s aid and placed a tourniquet on his arm before loading him into a vehicle that rushed him to a hospital.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with shooting Grosskreutz and fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber on August 25, 2020. The one-time police youth cadet from Antioch, Illinois, was 17 when he went to Kenosha with an AR-style rifle and a medical kit in what he said was an effort to safeguard property from the demonstrations that broke out over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha police officer.
Rittenhouse is white, as are the three men he shot, but the case has raised polarising questions about racial justice, policing, firearms and white privilege.
Grosskreutz, a former paramedic who, like Rittenhouse, was carrying a medical aid kit that night, has said he was in Kenosha to support the protests as well as to help anyone who was hurt.
Rittenhouse, who faces life in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty and said he acted in self-defence. His lawyer said in court that Rittenhouse would take the stand in his own defence.
In the first week of Rittenhouse’s trial, prosecutors played numerous videos that showed the events of that night from different angles. Jurors heard testimony from people who were with Rittenhouse, as well as from police officers and loved ones of the men who died.
Jason Lackowski, a former Marine who was on the streets of Kenosha carrying his own rifle, testified on Friday about Rosenbaum, the first man Rittenhouse shot. Lackowski said Rosenbaum was acting “belligerently” but did not appear to pose a serious threat.
Lackowski said he considered Rosenbaum a “babbling idiot”, and turned his back and ignored him. He acknowledged that he did not see everything that went on between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum, including their final clash.
Other witnesses testified last week that a “hyperaggressive” Rosenbaum angrily threatened to kill Rittenhouse that night and that Rosenbaum was gunned down after he chased Rittenhouse and lunged for his rifle.
Prosecutors have portrayed Rittenhouse as the instigator of the bloodshed as well as an inexperienced teen who misrepresented his age and medical training to others that night. Rittenhouse’s lawyer has suggested among other things that Rittenhouse feared his weapon would be taken and used against him.
The prosecution suffered a potential blow when Rosenbaum’s fiancee, Kariann Swart, disclosed that he was on medication for bipolar disorder and depression but had not filled his prescriptions because the local pharmacy was boarded up due to the unrest – information Rittenhouse’s lawyers could use in their bid to portray Rosenbaum as the aggressor.
On the day he was killed, Rosenbaum, 36, had been released from a Milwaukee hospital. The jury was told that much, but not why he had been admitted – after a suicide attempt.
Rosenbaum’s killing has emerged as one of the most crucial moments that night because it set in motion the bloodshed that followed moments later.
Rittenhouse shot and killed Huber, a 26-year-old protester seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse then wounded Grosskreutz.
The trial is the highest-profile court test of a civilian’s right to self-defence since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, in 2013.
Two jurors were dismissed last week. One man was dismissed for potential bias after he told a joke about the Blake shooting to a court security officer, and a woman who is pregnant was dismissed after she said she was experiencing some discomfort. Eighteen jurors remain, and 12 will ultimately be picked to deliberate.
Last month, Grosskreutz sued the city and county of Kenosha, and several law enforcement officers, alleging they deputised a “roving militia” of white nationalists to counter demonstrators protesting against the Blake shooting.
On Monday, defence lawyer Corey Chirafisi accused Grosskreutz of chasing Rittenhouse with his gun out, an allegation the witness denied. Chirafisi also invoked Grosskreutz’s lawsuit against Kenosha, which is seeking compensatory damages.
“If Mr Rittenhouse is convicted, your chance of getting 10 million bucks is better, right?” Chirafisi said.