By Nathan Layne
KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) -The only protester shot by Kyle Rittenhouse to survive testified on Monday that he believed the U.S. teenager was an “active shooter” and was trying to disarm Rittenhouse at the time because he thought otherwise he would die.
Rittenhouse, 18, has been charged in the deaths of two men and with attempting to kill Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, during racial justice protests https://www.reuters.com/world/us/case-us-teenage-gunman-kyle-rittenhouse-2021-11-01 on Aug. 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot and wounded a Black man, Jacob Blake.
Grosskreutz, a former paramedic who was armed with a pistol that night, said he followed Rittenhouse because he had heard gunshots and saw protesters chasing him. He thought he might need to provide medical aid.
“I thought that the defendant was an active shooter,” Grosskreutz told the jury.
During the pursuit by protesters Rittenhouse stumbled to the ground. The teen then shot Anthony Huber, 26, who had swung a skateboard at him. He has been charged with killing Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and attempting to kill Grosskreutz.
Grosskreutz, who was approaching the teen, froze after Huber was shot, took a step back and put his hands in the air while still holding his pistol, according to video evidence and a criminal complaint filed days after the shootings last year.
Grosskreutz said on Monday that while he had his hands in the air he believed Rittenhouse had “re-racked” his rifle, effectively loading another round into the chamber so the gun was ready to fire. Grosskreutz said he interpreted that to mean the “defendant wasn’t accepting my surrender.”
“At that moment I felt that I had to do something to try and prevent myself from being killed or shot,” Grosskreutz said, adding that he was thinking of trying to wrestle away the gun from Rittenhouse or to detain him.
Grosskreutz said that while he was holding his pistol, he never intended to use it.
Under cross examination, Rittenhouse’s attorney sought to establish that Grosskreutz had pursued the teen with intent to harm him – an assertion Grosskreutz denied. The attorney also pressed Grosskreutz on why he did not tell police in his initial statement that he was armed that night.
“You omitted the fact that you ran up on him and had a Glock pistol in your hand,” Corey Chirafisi said.
“Correct,” Grosskreutz responded.
Grosskreutz, who had earlier acknowledged that his permit for carrying a concealed firearm had expired, said he was on medication and dealing with trauma when he spoke with police and the omission was not purposeful.
Chirafisi used a photo taken around the time Rittenhouse fired to try to portray Grosskreutz as a threat, saying the teen did not fire when Grosskreutz’s hands were up and only did so when he dropped his hands and moved toward Rittenhouse.
“You agree your firearm is pointing at Mr. Rittenhouse, correct?” Chirafisi asked.
“Yes,” Grosskreutz responded.
“And once your firearm is pointed at Mr. Rittenhouse that’s when he fires, yes?,” Chirafisi asked.
“No,” Grosskreutz said.
Rittenhouse, who faces life in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty. He is expected to testify that he acted in self defense.
Joseph Rosenbaum was the first person Rittenhouse shot that night after Rosenbaum chased the teen, threw a bag with toiletries in it and appeared to lunge for the barrel of his rifle, according to previous testimony.
Rittenhouse then fled the scene and a number of protesters started pursuing him, some shouting things like “Get his ass!” according to video evidence and the complaint.
Grosskreutz’s testimony could prove pivotal as the trial enters its second week. Last week, multiple witnesses provided testimony that seemed to support the teen’s claim of self-defense, especially in the case of Rosenbaum https://www.reuters.com/world/us/man-killed-by-rittenhouse-challenged-group-shoot-him-used-racial-slur-witness-2021-11-05.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Ross Colvin, Lisa Shumaker and Howard Goller)
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