KENOSHA, Wis. — Kyle Rittenhouse shouted “Friendly! Friendly! Friendly!” as he was being chased by a man he eventually shot to death during street protests against racial injustice, a police detective testified — in a confrontation the defense portrayed as “the classic ambush.”
Video took center stage Wednesday in the Illinois man’s trial in the shootings of three men — two fatally — after Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha in August 2020 with a medical kit and a rifle in what he says was an effort to safeguard property from damaging riots.
Jurors peered at infrared video made by an FBI surveillance plane from almost 9,000 feet above the spot where Rittenhouse shot 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum. With colored circles superimposed on the video identifying the movements of the two men far below, Kenosha Police Detective Martin Howard agreed with defense attorney Mark Richards that Rittenhouse had repeatedly shouted “Friendly!” as he was being chased — and that Rosenbaum appeared to be gaining ground on Rittenhouse.
Richards also described how Rosenbaum had come out from behind a car to meet Rittenhouse before the shooting, saying to the detective: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but this looks like the classic ambush.”
After prosecutors objected, Richards said: “Mr. Rosenbaum is in hiding as my client arrives, correct?”
“It appears so, yes,” Howard responded.
Testimony was to continue Thursday.
Rittenhouse, now 18, could get life in prison if convicted in the politically polarizing case that has stirred furious debate over self-defense, vigilantism, the right to bear arms and the racial unrest that erupted around the U.S. after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases like it.
The young man traveled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois after violent protests broke out over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer. Rittenhouse said he went there to protect property after two nights in which rioters set fires and ransacked businesses.
Prosecutors have portrayed him as the instigator of the bloodshed, while his lawyer argued that he acted in self-defense after Rosenbaum tried to grab his gun and others in the crowd kicked him in the face and hit him in the head with a skateboard.
In one video, footage shows a man — Rosenbaum — chasing Rittenhouse and throwing a plastic bag at him just before the man was gunned down. Someone is heard yelling “F— you!,” followed by the sounds of the four shots Rittenhouse fired, though the shooting itself is not clearly seen on camera.
“Oh, he shot him! He shot him, man. He shot him. He shot him, man. He laid him out,” the person making the video can be heard saying.
Footage shown to the jury also depicted Rosenbaum lying on the ground as frantic bystanders surrounded him to help. He had a wound to his head, and a bystander placed a shirt on it to apply pressure.
In the courtroom, Rittenhouse — seated in the jurors’ line of sight — kept his eyes fixed on a desktop screen and showed no emotion as video depicted him walking down a street with his rifle and shooting at protesters, people scattering and screaming.
Many of the videos played in court were found by police on social media sites, where lots of footage was streamed live or promptly posted after the bloodshed, and many of the scenes were familiar to those following the case.
Howard, the detective, detailed injuries Rittenhouse suffered that night, all seemingly minor: A half-inch scratch above his eyebrow, a small cut inside his lower lip, a 2-inch scratch below his collarbone, a 2-inch scratch on his forearm, a scratch on his back and two bumps the size of pennies on his head.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger drove home the point that Rosenbaum was apparently unarmed, asking Howard if any of the videos shown in court indicated Rosenbaum had a weapon of any kind. Howard replied no.
“No gun?” Binger asked.
“I can only see a plastic bag he’s carrying,” Howard said.
“So no gun? Binger asked.
“No,” replied Howard, who repeated the answer when Binger also asked him whether Rosenbaum carried a knife, bat or club.
Richards drove against that on cross-examination, asking Howard what can happen if a weapon is taken from someone.
“It can be used against them as a deadly and dangerous weapon, correct?” Richards asked.
“Correct,” Howard replied.
Jurors set their notepads aside and kept their eyes glued to the courtroom monitors at various points in the videos, most capturing the chaos of the violence and some showing graphic images of Rosenbaum after he was shot.
Moments after shooting the 36-year-old Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, a protester from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, who was seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard.
Rittenhouse then wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, a protester from West Allis, Wisconsin, who had a gun in his hand as he stepped toward Rittenhouse.