Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who shot at protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year and killed two people, took the stand in his murder trial Wednesday, testifying that he "didn't do anything wrong" and was acting in self-defense.
"I didn't intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me," Rittenhouse said about the shooting on Aug. 25, 2020.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at the time, told prosecutors that he "used deadly force" against the victims because he perceived them to be a threat to him.
"I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me," he said. "Two of them passed away, but I stopped the threat from attacking me."
Rittenhouse is accused of killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, at a protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. He faces two counts of first-degree homicide, one count of attempted homicide, two counts of recklessly endangering safety, and one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Rittenhouse testified that he intended to only render first aid at the protest, even giving his bulletproof vest to a friend that day because he didn't think he needed it. He was armed with an AR-15, however, which he claimed Wednesday he brought for protection.
"I didn't think I would be put in a situation where I would have to defend myself," he said.
In their cross-examination, prosecutors grilled Rittenhouse on why he brought a weapon to the protest in the first place. He said he carried an AR-15 because he assumed he was not old enough to have a pistol, but he thought that he could carry a rifle at 17 years old. Wisconsin law prohibits minors from bearing arms, but his lawyers have pointed to a state hunting law, arguing that it only bars children under 12 from hunting with guns.
When questioned about his violent encounters with the three victims, Rittenhouse said he perceived them as threats and that he acted in self-defense.
While recounting his confrontation with Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse said he shot him four times before running away to try to go to the police. When asked by his attorney why he was going to the police, Rittenhouse said, "Because I didn't do anything wrong. I was defending myself."
Even though he was carrying a first aid kit, Rittenhouse testified that he never tried to help any of the people he had shot.
"Gaige Grosskreutz, right after you shoot him in the arm, is yelling, 'I need a medic.' Did you hear that?" asked Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger.
"Yes," Rittenhouse said. But instead of going to the man's aid, Rittenhouse kept walking to the police.
Rittenhouse also at one point broke down while talking about the shooting, prompting Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder to call for a break.
Emotions also ran high between Schroder and Binger, with the pair clashing repeatedly on Wednesday.
Twice during Binger's cross-examination of Rittenhouse, Schroeder abruptly asked the jury to leave the courtroom and admonished Binger. Once was due to the lead prosecutor’s comment about Rittenhouse’s silence after his arrest, which the judge noted is a constitutionally protected right, and the second time because Binger attempted a line of questioning on Rittenhouse's views regarding using guns to defend property that Schroeder had already ruled should not be part of the evidence presented at trial.
The defense later requested a mistrial with prejudice because of those comments and questions by Binger. Schroder said he would take the motion under advisement, then engaged in another loud back-and-forth with Binger.
The trial resumed, but not before Schroder warned the prosecutor, "There better not be another incident."