Emotional Kyle Rittenhouse takes the stand, testifies about moment he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum

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KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58/CNN) -- The most anticipated moment of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial came early, when Rittenhouse himself was called to the stand Wednesday, earlier than expected. His testimony set off a chain reaction that sparked fireworks inside the courtroom and threw the very future of the trial into question.

Kyle Rittenhouse testified Wednesday that he was scared for his life and acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in what is likely to be the pivotal testimony of his homicide trial.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I defended myself," he testified.

He was largely composed, answering the defense's questions clearly and concisely. But he became extremely emotional recounting the moments before he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum.

The judge took a break for Rittenhouse to compose himself, and shortly after the return the prosecution began its cross-examination. Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked him, "What was the risk to you of death or great bodily harm at the moment you killed Joseph Rosenbaum?" Rittenhouse responded, "If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it, and killed me with it, and probably killed more people if I would have let him get my gun."

Rittenhouse is the defense's seventh witness and is crucial to the defense's argument that he acted in self-defense on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, when he killed two people and wounded another. The prosecution has instead sought to show Rittenhouse illegally possessed the gun and acted criminally.


In the moments before that initial shooting, another man, Joshua Ziminski, told Rosenbaum to "get him and kill him," Rittenhouse testified. Rosenbaum started to chase the teenager in a parking lot and threw a plastic bag at him, but Rittenhouse said he believed at the time that the thrown object was a chain.

Rittenhouse testified he then heard a gunshot behind him. Police detectives testified earlier in the trial that Ziminski fired that initial shot in the air. (Ziminski has pleaded not guilty to three charges related to that night.)

Seconds after that gunshot, Rittenhouse turned and saw Rosenbaum, 36, coming at him with his arms out front, he said. "I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun," Rittenhouse testified. He then shot Rosenbaum four times, killing him.

Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum threatened to kill him earlier that night, and he recognized him later when Rosenbaum confronted him. Rittenhouse said, "I was thinking this is the guy that said 'if he catches me alone he'll kill me' as I'm running away from him."

But he said he never intended to shoot Joseph Rosenbaum. So Binger asked, "Why'd you point it at him if you didn't have any intention of shooting?" Rittenhouse replied, "He was chasing me, I was alone, He threatened to kill me earlier that night. I didn't want to have to shoot him."

Rittenhouse then tried to run down the street to where police were situated to turn himself in, he testified, but a "mob was chasing me." While running, he became lightheaded and fell to the ground, he said.

Binger played a video from the scene and said, "There are people in the crowd that are asking you why you just shot someone, right?" Rittenhouse said, "Yes." Binger then said, "And you told them 'he had a gun.'" Rittenhouse replied, "At the time I was a little dazed and I was thinking of Mr. Ziminski with the pistol he had at the Duramax." Binger then asked, "So, you shot Joseph Rosenbaum because Joshua Ziminski had a pistol?" To which Rittenhouse said, "No."

An unknown person jumped at him trying to kick him, and Rittenhouse fired at the person twice. "I thought if I were to be knocked out, he would have stomped my face in if I didn't fire."

Anthony Huber, 26, then came at him, struck him with a skateboard, and grabbed his gun, he testified. Rittenhouse shot him once, killing him.

Finally, he saw Gaige Grosskreutz lunge at him and point a pistol at his head, so Rittenhouse shot him, he testified. Grosskreutz was wounded.

Kyle Rittenhouse testified for a total of about six hours. The judge told the jury he expects a few more days of witnesses to end the week, they'll have the weekend off, and then closing arguments will come Monday.

The 18-year-old's testimony came a day after the prosecution rested its case on Tuesday after calling 22 witnesses over six days. The prosecution's case was highlighted by testimony from an armed paramedic who was shot by Rittenhouse and a journalist who said the gunfire put him in danger.

Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to six charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree attempted intentional homicide. Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a curfew violation charge on Tuesday, saying prosecutors had failed to present evidence to support it.

The charges stem from the chaotic unrest in the wake of the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man.

The events of that night, almost all captured on video, are hardly in dispute. The question before the jury is whether Rittenhouse's actions were reasonable.

Rittenhouse breaks down on stand


Rittenhouse began his testimony Wednesday by telling jurors he is now studying nursing at Arizona State University. He testified that he had worked as a lifeguard in Kenosha, was part of a police explorer program and knows CPR and basic life support.

He lived in Antioch, Illinois, with his mother, and his father lived in Kenosha. He testified that he went into Kenosha on the morning of Aug. 25 to clean up graffiti, and then again that night with a rifle and small medic kit and joined up with a group of armed people. "I went down there to provide first aid," he said. He said he did not go there looking for trouble.

Rittenhouse told jurors that Rosenbaum threatened to kill him twice that night. In one instance, Rosenbaum screamed, "if I catch any of you f***ers alone, I'll f***ing kill you," according to Rittenhouse.

At one point in the night, he became separated from the other armed people in his group. He walked toward a parking lot and said Rosenbaum, hiding behind a vehicle, "ambushed me." Rosenbaum began running at him and cornered him, he said -- and then Rittenhouse broke down into tears, leading to a short break in the trial.

Jurors appeared attentive and some appeared to take extensive notes during his testimony, according to a pool reporter.


Rittenhouse chose AR-15 because 'it looked cool'

On cross-examination from Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, Rittenhouse acknowledged he used deadly force in shooting the men.

"I intended to stop the people who were attacking," Rittenhouse said. "I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking."

"I didn't know if it was going to kill them but I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking," he added.

He acknowledged he knew he was not old enough to legally buy a firearm and so he asked his friend Dominick Black to do so on his behalf. He selected an AR-15-style weapon because "I thought it looked cool," he testified.

Twice during cross-examination, Judge Schroeder asked the jury to leave the room and then sharply admonished Binger for his line of questioning. The first incident related to Binger's questions about Rittenhouse's post-arrest silence, a right solidified in the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.

"The problem is this is a grave constitutional violation for you to talk about the defendant's silence," Schroeder said. "You're right on the borderline, and you may be over, but it better stop."

The second admonishment related to questions about an incident two weeks before the shootings that Schroeder has said would not be permitted to come into evidence. Binger said he believed that incident was newly relevant to the case, but Schroeder criticized him for not asking permission first and affirmed the evidence would not be allowed.

"Don't get brazen with me," Schroeder said. "You know very well that an attorney can't go into these types of areas when the judge has already ruled without asking outside the presence of the jury to do so, so don't give me that."

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