KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Kyle Rittenhouse shouted “Friendly! Friendly! Friendly!” as he was being chased by a man he then shot to death during a protest against racial injustice, a detective testified. Rittenhouse’s lawyer called the confrontation a “classic ambush.”
Video took center stage Wednesday at Rittenhouse’s trial in the shootings of three men, two fatally, after he traveled to Kenosha in August 2020 with a medical kit and a rifle in what he said was an effort to safeguard property from damaging riots.
Jurors peered at the 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 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.
Before testimony resumed Thursday the judge dismissed a juror who had made a joke to a court security officer earlier this week about the police shooting of Jacob Blake — the Black man whose wounding triggered the protests in Kenosha. That juror, a retired white man, declined to repeat the joke for the judge.
“It is clear that the appearance of bias is present and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case,” Circuit Judge Bruce Schroder said.
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.
Rittenhouse said he went there to protect property after two nights in which rioters set fires and ransacked businesses in the wake of Blake’s shooting by a white Kenosha officer.
Prosecutors have portrayed Rittenhouse 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, the 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.
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.
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.
Moments after shooting 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.