What Is Kyle Rittenhouse Charged With?

The charges in the trial range from first-degree intentional homicide down to a misdemeanor weapons charge.,

ImageThe Kenosha County Courthouse for the start of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial on Tuesday.
The Kenosha County Courthouse for the start of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial on Tuesday.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

KENOSHA, Wis. — The first witnesses testified and opening statements were delivered in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial on Tuesday, after a jury was selected in an unusually swift process at the Kenosha County Courthouse.

Mr. Rittenhouse, now 18, faces six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, in the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of another in the aftermath of protests over a police shooting in Kenosha during the summer of 2020.

During opening statements, Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor in the case against Mr. Rittenhouse, described how Mr. Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, came to Kenosha with a military-style semiautomatic rifle as the city was experiencing tumultuous demonstrations that turned violent.

Hundreds of people in Kenosha, Mr. Binger told jurors, “experienced the night of Aug. 25, experienced the chaos.”

“And yet,” Mr. Binger said, “the only one who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”

Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense team, for its part, said that Mr. Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when the shootings took place.

“Ultimately, what this case will come down to, it isn’t a ‘whodunit,’ or when did it happen, or anything like that,” Mark Richards, the defense attorney, said in an opening statement. He said that the real question was whether Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions were “privileged under the law of self-defense.”

With opening statements completed on Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution began calling its first witnesses, including Dominick Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse’s, and Koerri Washington, a Kenosha resident who had livestreamed some of the events on the night of the shootings. The trial is expected to resume on Wednesday morning with more testimony from Mr. Washington.

The jury, a panel of 20 people composed of 11 women and nine men, was winnowed down on Monday from a pool of about 150 prospective jurors who were summoned to the courthouse for questioning. Though 20 jurors will hear the case, that number will be cut to 12 to reach a verdict.

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Reconstructing the Rittenhouse Shootings: How Kenosha Echoed America’s Polarization

In the months leading up to Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial for killing two people, we analyzed hours of footage and interviewed key witnesses from that fatal night in Kenosha, Wis., to understand how the country’s polarization set the scene for violence.

A police officer in Kenosha, Wis., shoots a Black man named Jacob Blake seven times from behind, leaving him partially paralyzed. [gunshots] “Black lives matter!” Crowd: “Black lives matter!” Crowd: “Black lives matter!” Two days later, in the midst of protests and unrest, a teenager carrying an assault rifle kills two people and wounds a third. [gunshots] [yelling] [screams] “Oh, my God!” Now that shooter, 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, is standing trial on charges of murder. The case will likely focus on the few crucial minutes around the fatal shootings on Aug. 25 of 2020. [gunshots] But our investigation of these events reveals that the story is about much more than a single person. We analyzed hours of footage from that day and traveled to Kenosha just weeks after the events to hear from witnesses, several of whom have now been subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial. “It felt volatile. It felt tense. It felt like a war zone.” “We’re not like, bad people or like, people just going out to like, [expletive] up.” “I feel like had we not been there and not reacted the way that we did to the situation, I think we could have been looking at an even worse scenario.” We also spoke with the sheriff who led law enforcement’s response that night, which has become the subject of lawsuits. “Black lives matter!” While protests against systemic racism were what first drew out crowds in Kenosha, Rittenhouse, his victims, and many of those closest to the shootings, were white. What we found was a complex set of motivations on the streets that night that reflected the growing polarization in the country and helped set the scene … [gunshots] … for violence. On the Sunday before the Rittenhouse shooting, Kenosha police officers respond to a domestic complaint and try to arrest Jacob Blake. As Blake moves away from them and leans into his car, he’s holding a knife. [gunshots] An officer shoots him. [gunshots] Blake’s lawyer later said that Blake didn’t pose a threat. Video of the shooting quickly spreads online. “To hear about it is one thing. But to watch it, I guess it got to the point where, how many more?” Koerri Washington, who’s a local live streamer and now subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial, arrives to document the situation. “I mean, there was tons of people already starting to gather there. In the air you could kind of feel the tension.” “At a certain point, more sheriffs arrived on the scene. And their presence kind of aggravated the crowd. And from there, it just started going crazy.” [explosions] For the next 48 hours, the protests intensified. [crowds chanting] And at night, local businesses are looted and set on fire. Eventually, a new group inserts themselves into the already chaotic scene — dozens of men, mostly white, equipped with military-style weapons and gear. And soon, a Facebook post will incite more of them to come. It’s Tuesday morning, 13 hours before the Rittenhouse shooting, when on a Facebook page called the Kenosha Guard, a post publishes. “So my post just basically said, are there any patriots among us willing to take up arms and defend our lives, our families, our neighborhoods and our businesses?” The author of the post is Kevin Mathewson, a controversial former city councilman, who’s now been subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial. Hours after his post, thousands have seen it, and Mathewson arrives at Civic Center Park, the epicenter of the recent protests. “I wanted people to come play defense. I wanted people to come to protect themselves.” Reporter: “But did any business owners ask you for help for protection?” “I was not asked directly by a business to defend anybody.” “Say his name.” Crowd: “Jacob Blake.” At this point, demonstrators are marching peacefully in downtown Kenosha. They’re demanding an end to police violence against Black people. The presence of openly armed white men inflames the situation. “The Second Amendment is meant for everybody. It’s not exclusive to white people.” “Out of everyone that I saw with the militia, they were all white males. So I honestly feel that they came to incite more racial problems.” Porche Bennett, who’s a local activist, has been protesting for the last two days. “You get to see the people now that you have been living around forever. There are no more masks being worn.” “Are there some truly peaceful protesters that may have been a little intimidated about seeing an armed person with a gun? Probably. But the Second Amendment is very clear. And my rights don’t end where somebody else’s feelings begin.” Throughout the day and early into the evening, more openly armed men arrive near the protests. Some position themselves close to businesses that had been damaged on earlier nights. This is where we first see Ryan Balch, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from a town 40 minutes away, who’s there with a group of friends. He’s also been subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial. “I would say what brought me to Kenosha was that I felt like something needed to be done. If law enforcement is not going to try to keep the peace, then somebody else needs to go out there and make sure that that happens.” Balch argues that his military training gave him the skills to help bring events under control. “We kind of trusted ourselves to insert ourselves in that situation, and bring the situation to the correct conclusion.” At the time, he also supported the extremist Boogaloo movement, which is anti-police and calls for the government’s overthrow. He says he later stopped supporting the movement. Balch and his friends eventually link up with other openly armed men. Among them is Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse is 17 years old. He’s from Illinois, and isn’t legally allowed to carry a gun in Wisconsin. Balch says he didn’t know Rittenhouse or the people he was with, but decided to team up with them anyway. “They weren’t on the level of me and my guys. I don’t think they trained formally together at all. But the more guys you got, the better off you are.” As for Rittenhouse, we don’t know whether he sees himself as some kind of neutral force between the protesters and the police, like Ryan does. His social media posts at the time seem to indicate he was a strong supporter of law enforcement. Since the shooting, he’s also been seen flashing white power signs … … and he’s become an icon for far-right groups. Crowd: “Black lives matter.” Soon, Balch and Rittenhouse will come face to face with racial justice protests. Crowd: “No justice! No peace!” The organized daytime protests at the park are now over, and law enforcement has announced a curfew. “Our goal that entire evening was to disperse people from the Civic Center after curfew and to get them to leave, to get them to go home.” Kevin Mathewson, who called for the presence of armed civilians that morning, says he left because he was worried about the safety of his family 10 miles away. “My wife was on the phone with me saying, ‘Hey, get your ass home. Kids are scared. I’m scared.'” [car alarm] “Breaking curfew was worth helping to create some type of positive change. It’s one thing to sit at home and say that, yes, Black Lives Matter. But it’s so much more impactful to put another body on the street.” Nathan Peet has been demonstrating in Kenosha for days. But tonight’s protest is different, and he’s carrying a gun. “I don’t normally like to carry at protests because I don’t want it to be seen as a sign of aggression. But I did carry on Tuesday specifically because of the threats that I saw floating around in the Kenosha Guard group.” [car alarm] Just arriving at the protests are Hannah Gittings and her boyfriend, Anthony Huber. Both are unarmed. But by night’s end, Huber will be shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse. Gittings has now been subpoenaed for Rittenhouse’s trial. “I wouldn’t really say we were like, heavy activists or anything previously. But we knew Jake Blake, and felt like we needed to be present and standing united with the people who believe the same things that we do and want basic human rights, civil rights, equality.” The standoff between protesters and the police becomes more violent. [car alarms] “Everything started to move super quickly.” “Police in riot gear all yelling to disperse and go home, you’re breaking curfew.” [car alarms] “I got grabbed by the police. And he threatened to lock me up if he caught me out there again at night. I just went home.” Faced with this massive show of force, only a small number of protesters choose to stay. Among the shrinking crowd is Gaige Grosskreutz, a paramedic from Milwaukee, who’s also under subpoena for the Rittenhouse trial. “When you go into a protest or a march in a medic capacity, you’re essentially waiving that luxury to be able to pick a side because ethically speaking, you know, you’re there to treat everybody.” Like Nathan Peet, Grosskreutz decided to come armed with a handgun. “‘Cause it’s my right. Simple as that.” He’ll later be shot by Kyle Rittenhouse after drawing his gun and trying to stop him. [car alarms] “It was going the direction we wanted it to go.” Law enforcement has one clear plan on this night. “We’re not going to let the city of Kenosha burn because you want to in the late evening hours start destroying stuff.” Over the course of the next two hours, officers force some of the protesters southeast across the park and onto this street, Sheridan Road, in the direction of the openly armed civilians. Balch, Rittenhouse and other armed men are still stationed a few blocks down the road near businesses that were damaged on previous nights. “I think that the police set the stage for it. They knew that there were armed groups down there. And they could have not pushed the protesters down Sheridan.” The sheriff told us that the police didn’t plan for the armed presence down the road. Reporter: “What did you tell your deputies to do if they encountered armed militia people?” “By the time I think I knew that they were out there doing this, we had — our staff was already deployed out there protecting the area. There was no direction to deal with the Kenosha Guard in any way at that point.” “We were midstream on this one, and we were going forward with the plans we had already had.” Once protesters and openly armed civilians encounter each other, there’s a confrontation. As Balch and his group argue with protesters, Peet is live streaming. “Between Ryan and his group and the other protesters, I definitely felt quite a bit of tension. There were a couple very, very hot-headed members of his group actively agitating protesters.” “Hey, hey, hey, hey.” Balch tells protesters to keep moving. “Right.” Reporter: “One of the militia members claims that a police officer told him that the officers were going to push the protesters out of Civic Center Park, and that the militia would handle them.” “I don’t believe that for a second.” The police continue pushing protesters further down the road to this intersection near a gas station. Here is where we first see Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shoots that night. He joins the fight against the armed civilians … … as other protesters tried to stop him. Rosenbaum has just been released from the hospital after undergoing mental health treatment. His reasons for being here are unclear, and he doesn’t appear to have attended a protest before. But his actions on this night will add to an already volatile situation. At this point, the group of protesters has thinned out even more. “All of this is done pretty much in the name of Black Lives Matter, and there is definitely Black people in the crowd. But there definitely was more white people.” The armed men chalk up any conflict with the protesters to miscommunication. “We had some negative interactions. But that was more of a confusion on their part about what we were about.” But many of the protesters feel uncomfortable with the armed presence. They accuse Balch and others of playing vigilante. “Why else are you going to show up — especially Kyle Rittenhouse — show up to a city you don’t even [expletive] live in, armed to the [expletive] teeth to protect your community? This is not your community, pal. You don’t live here.” “You’re welcome.” But the police praise the armed men, and offer them assistance. “This is not the group of people we want here. But you can open carry weapons. So there wasn’t a violation of the law.” But just like the protesters, the armed civilians are violating the curfew … “Thank you.” … and police treat them much differently. Reporter: “After that curfew, it didn’t seem like police was trying to actively disperse or arrest any of the armed civilians. Why is that?” “I am not aware of any of the protesters that weren’t being violent that were arrested either. Peaceful people were not getting arrested that night.” The armed men appear emboldened by the inaction of the police towards them. Minutes after encountering the officers, Rittenhouse explains to a reporter from the Daily Caller why he thinks he belongs in Kenosha. It’s about 15 minutes until he’ll fire his first shot. At this point, several of the people we’ve been hearing from are now close to each other, and the situation is about to turn deadly. Nathan Peet is filming from here. Hannah Gittings and her boyfriend, Anthony Huber, are nearby. Koerri Washington is here. His footage captures both Gaige Grosskreutz and Ryan Balch walking by. Then, Kyle Rittenhouse runs past his camera. “I had been looking kind of at him the entire time because he looked young, he had a gun. So at the point where I see him run by me, I was like, that’s weird. So I followed down in that direction. Rittenhouse walks towards a parking lot where cars are being vandalized. He passes Joseph Rosenbaum, who was fighting with the armed men at the gas station, earlier. Rosenbaum now starts chasing Rittenhouse, and throws a plastic bag that holds his belongings from the hospital. Close behind them, a man holds up a handgun and fires it. [gunshot] We don’t know why. Then Rosenbaum lunges towards Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse fires four times. [gunshots] “Had I been in his shoes getting chased, and then I heard a gunshot, I can’t say that I would have done anything differently.” Rosenbaum, who’s been hit, falls to the ground. [gunshots] There are three more shots from someone else in the parking lot. “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. And I was like, oh, so they are really shooting.” “Oh, man. Maybe they really are really just trying to kill people. And if they were going to take advantage of a situation, I’m a Black person. And there is — I don’t want to be a target.” Rittenhouse calls a friend while others are helping Rosenbaum, who’s on the ground. Then, he flees the scene. “He didn’t disarm himself after the first shooting. He continued to run around. As a gun owner, I view his actions as completely irresponsible.” “You come running through looking wild with a gun on you, people are going to think that you’re doing something wild with a gun on you. So they reacted the way they should have reacted.” “And as soon as they were all saying he shot somebody, Anthony was gone. And I tried to grab onto him. And nobody was going to stop him, you know? And then I hear a bunch more gunshots down the road. And I was like, I just had a feeling. I just had a feeling it was him.” Rittenhouse trips and falls. Anthony Huber hits Rittenhouse with a skateboard, and attempts to disarm him. Rittenhouse shoots him in the chest. Here is Gaige Grosskreutz with his gun drawn. He also gets shot and calls out for help. “The reality of it is, is this is going to be a part of my life from here on out.” Rittenhouse runs toward police vehicles and raises his hands. The police make no attempt to stop him, and he isn’t arrested until the next day. “I didn’t talk to them, but I’m sure they didn’t know what this person was doing.” “I was looking for my partner. Like, I’m just trying to find where he went. I knew he had been shot, you know. And then later on I saw that video. They had pulled Anthony into that truck like minutes before I got there.” Both Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber died from their injuries. “Anthony Huber, man, he went down like a hero, you know. That’s — he thought there was a threat there, and he was reacting to it. And he just wasn’t quick enough to react to that threat. And so I mean, he got a really good death out of that.” “He was 26. He had like — it’s just like brutally cruel and unfair how that can be snatched away like that by anybody who feels like it. Yeah. It’s awful. It’s awful. And there’s no — there’s no words to say to like, make that feel any better.” “I believe truly in my heart that if it wasn’t for my actions, and these brave men and women who answered my call to arms, I think that we would have seen a way worse outcome than what we saw.” Reporter: “But two people died.” “Yeah, two people died, and that’s terrible. But when you have people burning down buildings, there’s always that chance life is going to be lost.” “Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys that night? I don’t think there were any. I think the militia guys and the protesters were just individuals who were stuck in a situation, and were doing the best they could with it.” “Kyle came here, and he played cowboy. He played vigilante. He came here looking for a confrontation, and he found one.” “Who’s responsible? I can’t tell you. You know, I guess everyone who was there that night holds some level of responsibility. And who carries the most, I can’t tell you.” “Why didn’t you guys arrest him right then and there? Because if it would have been one of us, things would have happened a lot faster and a lot differently.” “Some people feel like Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero, and some people feel like he is a murderer. I feel personally that the situation, regardless of what was happening, should have resulted in something completely different and not people dying.”

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In the months leading up to Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial for killing two people, we analyzed hours of footage and interviewed key witnesses from that fatal night in Kenosha, Wis., to understand how the country’s polarization set the scene for violence.CreditCredit…Anadolu Agency, via Reuters

Determined to select a jury rapidly, Judge Bruce Schroeder of Kenosha County Circuit Court questioned potential jurors closely about their biases and any connections they might have with the expected witnesses in the trial.

When potential jurors said they had read and talked too much about the trial to be impartial jurists, Judge Schroeder asked whether they could overcome their notions about the case and focus on the evidence. One man began explaining that his support for the Second Amendment was so fervent that he did not believe he could serve as an impartial juror, but he was stopped by the judge.

“I want this case to reflect the greatness of Kenosha and the fairness of Kenosha, and I don’t want it to get sidetracked into other issues,” Judge Schroeder said. “I don’t care about your opinions on the Second Amendment.”

It was impossible to find a juror in Kenosha, a former factory town on the shore of Lake Michigan, who was unfamiliar with the contours of what had happened. When Judge Schroeder asked if there was anyone in the pool of prospective jurors who had not heard of the Rittenhouse case, not a single person raised a hand.

Demonstrations erupted in Kenosha in August 2020 after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black resident, seven times in the back during an arrest. For several days, protesters against police violence thronged Kenosha by the thousands, and rioters burned buildings and looted businesses, overwhelming police officers and National Guardsmen.

The third night of protests turned deadly after Mr. Rittenhouse, who was then 17, came to Kenosha with his rifle and joined a group of people who said they were there to help keep order on the streets. Within hours, Mr. Rittenhouse had shot and killed two men and wounded a third during a confrontation.

A memorial for Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, the two men killed by Mr. Rittenhouse.Credit…Chris Tuite/ImageSPACE/MediaPunch, via Associated Press

During jury selection, several prospective jurors said they had painful memories of the nights of protest and violence in their region, expressing fear and anxiety over the precautions they had taken as dozens of businesses were damaged and burned. And they worried that the verdict the jury eventually reached would be met with anger.

“I really want to serve on a jury — I really don’t want to serve on this jury,” one woman said. “Either way this goes, you’re going to have half the country upset with you.”

A Kenosha police detective, Ben Antaramian, shows Dominick Black the military-style semiautomatic rifle that Mr. Black bought for Kyle Rittenhouse, who was a minor at the time.Credit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg

After a single day of jury selection, the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse got underway on Tuesday with the prosecution and defense offering starkly differing interpretations of the events that led to Mr. Rittenhouse shooting three men — two of them fatally — in the aftermath of demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020. At the center of the case is whether Mr. Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.

The day began with opening statements from the prosecution and defense, and ended with testimony from Koerri Washington, a Kenosha resident who live-streamed the protests in 2020. In between came testimony from Dominick Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse who purchased the gun used in the shooting, and from an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, whose testimony was withheld from the public for security reasons.

Here is what happened:

Prosecution’s opening statement

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Prosecution Opens Case in Rittenhouse Murder Trial

Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, delivered the opening statement in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Mr. Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis. He faces six counts, including first-degree intentional homicide.

Like moths to a flame, tourists from outside of our community were drawn to the chaos here in Kenosha. People from outside of Kenosha came in and contributed to that chaos. But out of the hundreds of people that came to Kenosha during that week, the hundreds of people that were out on the streets that week, the evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse. The evidence will show that hundreds of people were out in the street experiencing chaos and violence, and the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse. We’re not asking you to solve a mystery in this case. In most homicide cases, the elements that I need to prove might be a little challenging. But here, there’s no doubt, there will be no dispute in this record that the defendant had that gun that night, shot eight bullets. Four of them hit Joseph Rosenbaum, two of them at an unknown individual, one into Anthony Huber’s chest and one into Gaige Grosskreutz’s arm. That will not be in dispute. The central issue in this case is going to be self-defense. And the judge has given you an instruction, which I want to highlight here, because there are some factors that I’d like you to keep in mind when you hear the evidence in this case. The defendant used deadly force. There is a privilege under our laws to use deadly force, but it’s a very limited privilege. That privilege, according to the law, indicates that the defendant can only use deadly force, if he reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself. Was it reasonable for the defendant to believe that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself?

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Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, delivered the opening statement in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Mr. Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis. He faces six counts, including first-degree intentional homicide.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic
  • The lead prosecutor — Thomas Binger, a Kenosha County assistant district attorney — portrayed Mr. Rittenhouse as an outsider who traveled to Kenosha from Antioch, Ill., and added to the civil unrest in the city. Mr. Binger said that hundreds of people experienced the “chaos” of that August night — the loud noises, the gunfire, the tear gas and hostile standoffs in the streets between people with opposing views — and yet “the only one who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”

  • Mr. Binger focused on the shooting death of Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person who was shot, saying the fatal shot hit him in the back after he fell forward, already struck by shots to his pelvis and thigh. Mr. Rittenhouse, who was carrying a medic’s bag and offered assistance to protesters that evening, did not offer any aid to Mr. Rosenbaum, and instead fled up the street after the shooting, Mr. Binger said.

Defense’s opening statement

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Rittenhouse Lawyer Argues Self-Defense in Murder Trial Opening

Mark Richards, a lawyer for the defense, said in his opening statement that Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two men and wounded another during protests over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.

What this case will come down to, it isn’t a whodunit, when did it happen or anything like that. It is, was Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions privileged under the law of self-defense? You, as jurors, will end up looking at it from the standpoint of a 17-year-old under the circumstances as they existed on Aug. 25, 2020. And Mr. Binger makes a big thing out of Kyle Rittenhouse was the only person who shot somebody that evening. True, Mr. Rittenhouse was the only person who was chased by Joseph Rosenbaum that evening. The evidence will show he thought, probably, that he could get that gun from Kyle Rittenhouse. He was wrong. Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself, protected his firearm so it couldn’t be taken, used against him or other people who Mr. Rosenbaum had made threats to kill, and the other individuals who didn’t see that shooting attacked him in the street like an animal.

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Mark Richards, a lawyer for the defense, said in his opening statement that Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two men and wounded another during protests over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic
  • The defense, led by Mark Richards, painted Mr. Rittenhouse as someone with strong ties to Kenosha, saying his father lived in the city and that Mr. Rittenhouse once worked as a lifeguard in the area. Mr. Richards said Mr. Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha with innocent motives and joined others in guarding businesses.

  • Using photos and video clips, Mr. Richards said Mr. Rittenhouse was pursued on the fateful night by Mr. Rosenbaum and other protesters, who Mr. Richards said “attacked him in the street like an animal.” Ultimately, he said, the case was not about whether Mr. Rittenhouse had done the shooting but about whether his actions were privileged under the law of self-defense.

Testimony

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Dominick Black faces two felony charges of his own for giving his semiautomatic rifle to Kyle Rittenhouse, who used the gun to shoot three people, two of them fatally, during the unrest in Kenosha last year.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic
  • The first witness called by the prosecution was Mr. Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse who had dated Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister. Mr. Black faces charges for purchasing the gun for Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time and too young to buy or carry it legally. Mr. Black acknowledged that he was cooperating with prosecutors in the hope of avoiding prison time.

  • An F.B.I. agent, Brandon Cramin, testified about aerial surveillance of the events in Kenosha on the night of the shooting. For security reasons, the testimony was not made public.

  • The day concluded with testimony from Koerri Washington, a Kenosha resident who witnessed and recorded video of some of the protests in the city surrounding the time of the shooting.

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Prosecution Opens Case in Rittenhouse Murder Trial

Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, delivered the opening statement in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Mr. Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis. He faces six counts, including first-degree intentional homicide.

Like moths to a flame, tourists from outside of our community were drawn to the chaos here in Kenosha. People from outside of Kenosha came in and contributed to that chaos. But out of the hundreds of people that came to Kenosha during that week, the hundreds of people that were out on the streets that week, the evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse. The evidence will show that hundreds of people were out in the street experiencing chaos and violence, and the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse. We’re not asking you to solve a mystery in this case. In most homicide cases, the elements that I need to prove might be a little challenging. But here, there’s no doubt, there will be no dispute in this record that the defendant had that gun that night, shot eight bullets. Four of them hit Joseph Rosenbaum, two of them at an unknown individual, one into Anthony Huber’s chest and one into Gaige Grosskreutz’s arm. That will not be in dispute. The central issue in this case is going to be self-defense. And the judge has given you an instruction, which I want to highlight here, because there are some factors that I’d like you to keep in mind when you hear the evidence in this case. The defendant used deadly force. There is a privilege under our laws to use deadly force, but it’s a very limited privilege. That privilege, according to the law, indicates that the defendant can only use deadly force, if he reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself. Was it reasonable for the defendant to believe that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself?

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Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, delivered the opening statement in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Mr. Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis. He faces six counts, including first-degree intentional homicide.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial began Tuesday morning with a prosecutor portraying the teenager as a tourist who inserted himself into fiery unrest in Kenosha last year and initiated the confrontation that led him to shoot three men, killing two of them.

“Like moths to a flame, tourists from outside our community were drawn to the chaos,” said Thomas Binger, an assistant district attorney, in his opening statement.

Mr. Binger pointed to Mr. Rittenhouse as he said, “The evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”

Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 and living in Antioch, Ill., at the time of the shootings, faces charges including first-degree intentional homicide.

Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said they will make a self-defense case for their client, and the case will turn on the question of whether Mr. Rittenhouse reasonably believed he had to fire a weapon to avoid being badly hurt or killed. Again and again, Mr. Binger returned to the fact that the only killings that occurred during several days of unrest in Kenosha were committed by Mr. Rittenhouse.

“When we consider the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions, I ask you to keep that in mind,” he said.

Mr. Binger largely focused on the first shooting that took place, of Joseph Rosenbaum. Mr. Binger said the evidence would show that the fatal shot hit Mr. Rosenbaum in the back after he fell forward following earlier shots to his pelvis and leg.

The prosecutor said infrared video taken from an airplane by the F.B.I. that evening will show that Mr. Rittenhouse chased Mr. Rosenbaum before shooting him. He noted also that Mr. Rittenhouse was carrying a medical kit, but fled after shooting Mr. Rosenbaum as others tried to offer emergency assistance.

Mr. Rittenhouse, dressed in a dark suit with a maroon shirt and tie in court on Tuesday, looked on quietly as the trial got underway, occasionally yawning.

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Rittenhouse Lawyer Argues Self-Defense in Murder Trial Opening

Mark Richards, a lawyer for the defense, said in his opening statement that Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two men and wounded another during protests over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.

What this case will come down to, it isn’t a whodunit, when did it happen or anything like that. It is, was Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions privileged under the law of self-defense? You, as jurors, will end up looking at it from the standpoint of a 17-year-old under the circumstances as they existed on Aug. 25, 2020. And Mr. Binger makes a big thing out of Kyle Rittenhouse was the only person who shot somebody that evening. True, Mr. Rittenhouse was the only person who was chased by Joseph Rosenbaum that evening. The evidence will show he thought, probably, that he could get that gun from Kyle Rittenhouse. He was wrong. Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself, protected his firearm so it couldn’t be taken, used against him or other people who Mr. Rosenbaum had made threats to kill, and the other individuals who didn’t see that shooting attacked him in the street like an animal.

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Mark Richards, a lawyer for the defense, said in his opening statement that Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two men and wounded another during protests over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, arrived in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020 as a teenager with innocent motives, his lawyer told jurors in an opening statement.

Mr. Rittenhouse had ties to the community, family and friends who lived in Kenosha and a job as a lifeguard at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie, just outside town. When he went downtown on the third day of protests after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Mr. Rittenhouse was there to clean graffiti and help protect the city from more destruction, his lawyer said.

And when Mr. Rittenhouse walked along Sheridan Road in Kenosha with his rifle in the late evening hours of Aug. 25, 2020, he was pursued by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he shot, as well as other attackers who were determined to injure him, take his firearm and possibly kill him, said the lawyer, Mark Richards.

“Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself,” Mr. Richards said. “Protected his firearm, so it couldn’t be taken and used against him or other people who Mr. Rosenbaum had made threats to kill. The other individuals who didn’t see that shooting attacked him in the street like an animal.”

The case before the jury is about self-defense, Mr. Richards said, describing a scene of lawlessness in Kenosha that night, and a series of shootings that happened so quickly that Mr. Rittenhouse had to make lightning-fast decisions on when to pull the trigger.

Mr. Richards acknowledged the prosecutor’s argument that Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions appear less reasonable if jurors consider that he was the only person who killed anyone during the unrest that spanned several days in the summer of 2020.

“True,” he said. But he added, “Mr. Rittenhouse was the only person who was chased by Joseph Rosenbaum that evening.”

Punctuating his opening statement with photos and videos from the night of the shootings — over the objections of the prosecution — Mr. Richards turned to the people who were shot by Mr. Rittenhouse, characterizing them as hostile and belligerent.

The mob had a “marauding nature,” he said, one that was so aggressive that he said Richard McGinniss, a video journalist for the Daily Caller, had to pacify some people with alcohol and cigarettes.

After Mr. Rittenhouse shot Mr. Rosenbaum and fled down Sheridan Road away from the scene, he was chased by dozens of people, including Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. But while the prosecutors described Mr. Huber and Mr. Grosskreutz as citizens who were trying to stop an active shooter, the defense characterized them as aggressors.

Mr. Huber bludgeoned Mr. Rittenhouse with a skateboard, Mr. Richards said, and a man who was captured on video — but never identified — jump-kicked Mr. Rittenhouse in the face.

“Kyle Rittenhouse, flat on his back, in the most vulnerable position one can be in,” Mr. Richards said.

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Dominick Black faces two felony charges of his own for giving his semiautomatic rifle to Kyle Rittenhouse, who used the gun to shoot three people, two of them fatally, during the unrest in Kenosha last year.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

The prosecution in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial called as its first witness on Tuesday the friend who bought the military-style semiautomatic rifle that Mr. Rittenhouse used to shoot three people, two of them fatally, during the unrest in Kenosha last year.

The friend, Dominick Black, now 20, acknowledged that he was cooperating with prosecutors in hopes of avoiding prison. Mr. Black faces two felony charges for giving the gun to Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time and too young to buy it legally himself.

Mr. Black testified that he dated Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister and that he and the defendant once considered each other brothers.

Mr. Black told the court that he bought the gun and stored it at his stepfather’s house for Mr. Rittenhouse. He recalled that on the day of the shooting in August 2020, he and Mr. Rittenhouse had gone to downtown Kenosha together, with Mr. Black carrying a nearly identical gun of his own. He said they had cleaned graffiti there, before eventually joining other men guarding several used-car lots. People had set fire to cars at one of the lots earlier in the unrest.

Thomas Binger, an assistant district attorney and the lead prosecutor, emphasized the differences between Mr. Black’s actions that night and Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions. Mr. Black testified that he stayed on the roof of a building at one of the car lots, because he thought he would be safer there than mingling with agitated crowds that included people who were lighting fires and throwing rocks.

Mr. Rittenhouse, by contrast, was out on the street when he shot the men. Mr. Black did not witness any of the shootings.

“Did you ever consider using your gun to shoot anyone?” Mr. Binger asked.

“No,” Mr. Black answered.

Mr. Rittenhouse’s lead defense lawyer, Mark Richards, used his cross-examination to point out Mr. Black’s admitted interest in testifying. Mr. Richards also drew out testimony from Mr. Black that other people who were with Mr. Rittenhouse and Mr. Black that night had suggested that Mr. Rittenhouse stay out on the street, because he was acting as a medic. Mr. Black also testified that someone from their group told Mr. Rittenhouse to go and protect the lot where Mr. Rittenhouse shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36.

Mr. Richards asked Mr. Black if he tried to stop his friend from going downtown with a gun.

“I didn’t say anything,” Mr. Black said.

For their second witness, prosecutors called an F.B.I. agent, Brandon Cramin, to testify about aerial surveillance of the protest on the night of the shooting.

After Agent Cramin took the stand, prosecutors played a grainy black-and-white video taken from an airplane flying 8,500 feet overheard, according to a pool report.

The day after the shooting, people revisited one of the sites where Kyle Rittenhouse killed a man.Credit…Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Here are the six charges Kyle Rittenhouse faces in the trial, numbered the way they are in the criminal complaint, which does not list them in order of severity (the most severe is Count 3).

Five are felony counts; one is a misdemeanor. For each of the felonies, the complaint lists an aggravating factor that could add to the basic sentence if he is convicted.

Count 1

First-degree reckless homicide

Under Wisconsin law, this crime is defined as recklessly causing the death of another human being under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life. It is not necessary for prosecutors to prove intent to kill. (Charges that are generally known as murder counts in other states are called homicides under Wisconsin law.)

Mr. Rittenhouse is accused of this crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Joseph D. Rosenbaum. It is a Class B felony carrying a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.

Counts 2 and 5

First-degree recklessly endangering safety

The law defines this crime as recklessly endangering another person’s safety under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life.

Mr. Rittenhouse is charged with recklessly endangering two people who, according to the criminal complaint, had shots fired toward them but were not hit: Richard McGinnis and an unknown male seen in video of the episode.

The crime is a class F felony that carries a basic sentence of up to 12 and a half years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both, for each of the two counts.

Count 3

First-degree intentional homicide

The crime, analogous to first-degree murder in other states, is defined as causing the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or someone else, without the presence of certain mitigating circumstances specified in the law.

Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the fatal shooting of Anthony M. Huber. It is a Class A felony that carries a basic sentence of life in prison.

Count 4

Attempted first-degree intentional homicide

Attempting to commit first-degree intentional homicide is a Class B felony under Wisconsin law.

Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the shooting of Gaige P. Grosskreutz, who was struck and wounded. It carries a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.

Count 6

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18

Though Wisconsin is an “open-carry” state where it is legal for adults to carry firearms openly, state law prohibits minors from doing so. Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shooting.

This crime is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a basic sentence of up to nine months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

AGGRAVATING FACTOR

Use of a dangerous weapon

A provision of Wisconsin law extends the maximum sentence for crimes committed while possessing, using or threatening to use a dangerous weapon. The criminal complaint invokes this provision for all five felony counts; in each case, it could add up to five years to the prison sentence for that count, if Mr. Rittenhouse is convicted.

Judge Bruce Schroeder speaks to the attorneys in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial before the jury enters the courtroom at Kenosha County Courthouse.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Here is a rundown of the key figures in the courtroom for the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis. Mr. Rittenhouse faces six charges — five felony counts and one misdemeanor — in connection with the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of a third during protests and unrest in Kenosha in August 2020. The most serious charge he faces, intentional homicide, carries a life sentence.

The Defendant

  • Kyle Rittenhouse was 17 in August 2020, and was living with his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, in an apartment in Antioch, Ill., a half-hour drive from Kenosha, where his father lives.

  • His social media posts indicated support for Blue Lives Matter and an ambition to work in law enforcement. He joined a cadet program for teenagers who want to be police officers.

  • On the evening of the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse was armed with a military-style semiautomatic rifle, and joined a group of armed men who said they were there to protect businesses.

The Judge

  • Bruce Schroeder, 75, is the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin, and is known for running a strict courtroom.

  • He graduated from Marquette Law School in 1970 and worked as a prosecutor before becoming a circuit judge in 1983.

  • Because self-defense is an issue at the trial, Judge Schroeder has ordered that the term “victim” cannot be used to refer to the people who were shot. They can be called “rioters” or “looters” only if it is established in court that they were rioting or looting, he has said.

The Prosecutor

  • The lead prosecutor is Thomas Binger, a Kenosha County assistant district attorney.

  • Mr. Binger has been a prosecutor in the county for seven years. Before that, he was a lawyer in private practice, and earlier in his career was an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County, according to an online resume. He ran unsuccessfully for district attorney in neighboring Racine County in 2016.

  • He has clashed with Judge Schroeder several times during pretrial hearings in the Rittenhouse case.

The Defense

  • Mr. Rittenhouse’s lead lawyer is Mark Richards, 59, a veteran criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. He primarily represents people accused of violent crimes or drug crimes.

  • He joined Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense team in September 2020, and took charge of the defense in January 2021, replacing John Pierce.

  • Another lawyer on the defense team is Corey Chirafisi, a former prosecutor based in Madison, Wis.

The Jury

  • Twenty people — 11 women and nine menwere selected to hear the case, from a pool of about 150 prospective jurors.

  • Ultimately, 12 of the jurors will deliberate on a verdict.

Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, were both killed by Kyle Rittenhouse last year.Credit…Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York Times

The actions of two men who were killed and another who was wounded by Kyle Rittenhouse during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., last year will be scrutinized as part of Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial ,because of his claim that he fired in self-defense. Jurors are expected to see video of the events before the shootings. and may hear testimony from a man who was shot and survived.

Here is what we know about the people who were killed or wounded:

Joseph Rosenbaum

It is unclear why Joseph Rosenbaum, a 36-year-old from Kenosha, was on the street that night. The Washington Post has reported that he had been released from a hospital hours earlier after a suicide attempt.

Mr. Rosenbaum, the first person shot, lunged at an armed Mr. Rittenhouse shortly after another man fired a handgun into the air, according to a witness. Mr. Rosenbaum was unarmed. Prosecutors plan to argue that Mr. Rittenhouse chased him before the shooting.

Anthony Huber

Anthony Huber, who lived in Kenosha County, went downtown with his girlfriend to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, one of Mr. Huber’s casual acquaintances, according to Anand Swaminathan, a lawyer for Mr. Huber’s family.

Mr. Huber, 26, was an avid skateboarder; video shows him hitting Mr. Rittenhouse, who had fallen to the ground, with his skateboard after Mr. Rosenbaum was shot. Mr. Huber’s lawyers, who are suing the authorities in Kenosha, wrote in a lawsuit that their client was trying to prevent more shootings.

“Anthony Huber is a hero,” the lawsuit reads. “He attempted to disarm Rittenhouse, end the gunfire, stop the bloodshed and protect his fellow citizens.”

Gaige Grosskreutz

Gaige Grosskreutz, of West Allis, Wis., was volunteering as a medic when he approached Mr. Rittenhouse with a handgun drawn as Mr. Huber was being shot.

Mr. Grosskreutz, 27, was shot in the arm. He survived, but lost 90 percent of his right biceps, according to a lawsuit he filed against the local authorities. His lawyer, Kimberley Motley, declined to discuss details of his life or the night’s events.

A community event in Kenosha in June.Credit…Akilah Townsend for The New York Times

KENOSHA, Wis. — As protests raged across Wisconsin’s fourth-largest city in August 2020, one day after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, demonstrators in front of the city’s limestone courthouse lobbed projectiles at police officers, who fired back with canisters of tear gas.

But while bistros and jewelry shops along the lakefront downtown had been boarded up with plywood, as if braced for destruction, another part of the city was burning.

A mile away from the chaos downtown, the main commercial corridor of the economically depressed Uptown neighborhood, where many Black and Latino families lived, was engulfed in flames. Pink-tinged smoke billowed, visible for miles.

“It happened so quickly,” Sheriff David G. Beth said not long ago. “We did not anticipate them lighting small mom-and-pop businesses on fire.”

One year later, Kenosha’s downtown bears little trace of the unrest. Residents of the city of 100,000, a mostly white former industrial and car-making hub whose voters lean Democratic, have confronted the shooting of Mr. Blake in listening sessions and community coalitions on racism.

“People didn’t think Ferguson could happen here, they didn’t think Minneapolis could happen here,” Anthony Kennedy, a City Council member, said. “And when it did, it shook the foundation of some people, myself included.”

A building damaged during the unrest in Kenosha.Credit…Akilah Townsend for The New York Times

The City Council announced bias training and made plans to outfit the Police Department with body cameras, and for months the chief of police quietly met each Wednesday at a church with a new group made up of so-called violence interrupters, who seek to defuse violent episodes before officers become involved.

But Uptown appears frozen in time from the night of the protests. Much of the main commercial corridor is still boarded up or crumbling, the brick walls of empty businesses streaked with soot. Inside the shells of buildings that burned, debris is slowly rotting, the smell of mold wafting onto the sidewalk.

“You barely see people here anymore,” said Darrayal Jenkins, 40, as he walked past several burned buildings in July. “It’s like a ghost town.”

City officials have promised a renewed focus on Uptown, planning developments of apartments and businesses that would breathe life into it once again. Whether they will follow through has become a test of the city’s commitment to change after Mr. Blake’s shooting — and how far it will go to heal a neighborhood that is the home of so many Black families who say that they are still on the margins of civic life in Kenosha.

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