The first man killed by Kyle Rittenhouse on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot within a few feet and had soot wounds that could indicate that he had his hand on the barrel of Rittenhouse’s gun, a pathologist testified Tuesday.
But from the video footage it was unclear whether Joseph Rosenbaum was grabbing Rittenhouse’s gun or trying to wipe her out, witness Dr. Doug Kelley, with the Milwaukee County Coroner’s Office.
Kelley was one of the last witnesses for the state before prosecutors hushed up their murder case after 5 and a half days of testimony that aimed to portray Rittenhouse as the assailant, but often reinforced the young man’s self-defense claim. His lawyers suggested that the 17-year-old feared his gun would be taken away and used against him.
The defense then began to present its side, calling as first witnesses the people who were on the street with Rittenhouse that night and describing him as pale, shaking, sweaty and stammering after the shootings.
“He repeats, ‘I just shot someone’ over and over, and I think at one point he said he had to shoot someone,” testified Nicholas Smith, who said he went to the protests that shook Kenosha that night on request from the owners of a car dealership to protect the business.
“My God, my life may be over,” said another witness, JoAnn Fiedler, quoted by Rittenhouse. She said she didn’t give any details about what happened, but told her she “had to do it”.
Rittenhouse, now 18, killed two men and injured a third during a night of turbulent demonstrations against racial injustice in Kenosha in the summer of 2020.
The former Antioch, Illinois police cadet had gone to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle and medical kit in what he said was an effort to protect the property from harmful protests that erupted over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white Kenosha police officer.
Rittenhouse could get a life sentence if convicted of the most serious charge against him.
While Rittenhouse is as white as those he shot, the case sparked racist debate over vigilantism, the right to bear arms, and the riots that erupted in the United States that summer over the killing of George Floyd and other police violence against blacks.
On Tuesday, the jury watched the drone video which was zoomed in and slowed down to show Rosenbaum following Rittenhouse, and then Rittenhouse turning and shooting Rosenbaum at close range.
Rosenbaum shot 4 times
Kelley, the pathologist, said Rosenbaum was shot four times by someone within four feet (1.2 meters) of him. He testified that Rosenbaum was wounded first in the groin, and then in the hand and thigh, while facing Rittenhouse, and then was shot in the head and back.
Those last two shots were sloped down, the pathologist said. Prosecutors said this indicates Rosenbaum was falling forward, while defense attorney Mark Richards said Rosenbaum was falling.
Kelley said both scenarios were possible.
Kelley also claimed that Rosenbaum’s hand was “near or in contact with the end of that rifle”.
The hand was over the barrel of the gun, the defense says
Richards pointed out the small soot wounds on Rosenbaum’s hand and said, “So that hand was over the barrel of Mr. Rittenhouse’s gun when he was shot.”
“This makes sense,” Kelley said.
The drone footage was the clearest video of the shooting that set the bloodshed in motion that followed moments later: Rittenhouse killed Anthony Huber, a 26-year-old protester seen on a video at a nightclub in Rittenhouse with a skateboard. . Rittenhouse then wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, a 27-year-old protester and volunteer doctor who was shot after pointing his gun at Rittenhouse.
Fiedler, the defense witness, was with Rittenhouse outside the car dealership shortly before the first shooting, and said they had been scolded and taunted by protesters, including Rosenbaum. But Fiedler, who said he had a gun, testified that he never saw Rittenhouse threaten or point the gun at anyone.
Wisconsin’s self-defense law allows someone to use deadly force only as “necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm.” The jury must decide whether Rittenhouse believed he was in such danger and whether that belief was reasonable under the circumstances.