KENOSHA, Wis. (CN) — The third day of testimony in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse on Thursday provided context from two individuals who were in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and spent time with the 18-year-old the night he killed two people and injured a third during violent unrest sparked by the shooting of a Black man by white police, including someone who was near the first shooting and provided aid to the victim.
Prosecutors have charged Rittenhouse with five felonies, including intentional and reckless homicide for shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz during several days of protests that raged in Kenosha after a local police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times while responding to a domestic disturbance, leaving Blake, 30, partially paralyzed.
Rosenbaum, 36, and Huber, 26, were killed, while 28-year-old Grosskreutz survived a gunshot wound to his right bicep.
Rittenhouse faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. His attorneys say he shot in self-defense while being chased and attacked by a crowd of protesters after he had already shot Rosenbaum, who they say had earlier chased and threatened to kill Rittenhouse.
At the top of proceedings on Thursday, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed one male juror who reportedly told a bad-taste joke about the shooting of Jacob Blake to a sheriff’s deputy sometime the previous day.
Assistant Kenosha County District Attorney Thomas Binger, who broached the subject of tossing the juror, said the joke, to his understanding, went something like “why did it take seven shots for [Kenosha police] to kill Jacob Blake? Because they ran out of bullets.”
Schroeder, a 38-year veteran of the Kenosha circuit court who has stressed the need for the public to view Rittenhouse’s trial as fair, called the juror’s actions “at the very least bad judgment” and dismissed him for the appearance of racial bias. The seated jury remains at 12, now with seven alternates.
After Mark Richards, a lawyer on Rittenhouse’s defense team from Racine, completed cross-examination of a Kenosha detective who investigated the Rittenhouse case begun during Wednesday’s proceedings, the state called Richie McGinniss, who since 2017 has been the chief video director with the Daily Caller, a right-leaning news website co-founded in 2010 by Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson.
During the summer of 2020, McGinniss traveled to places like Portland and Seattle reporting on unrest sparked nationwide by the police killing of George Floyd. He arrived in Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020, along with two Daily Caller reporters after hearing reports of protests and rioting in response to Blake’s shooting, witnessing multiple fires and armed individuals that night.
McGinniss and the two reporters went back out to cover the following night’s demonstrations. While alone, he eventually came upon a used car lot being protected by Rittenhouse — whom he briefly interviewed and followed around — as well as others similarly armed with long rifles and tactical gear. McGinniss said during direct examination that, in his experience, “anytime there are guns, that elevates the level of danger in my mind.”
McGinniss testified that he later saw Rittenhouse running by and trailed him, phone in hand for documentation, to see if something newsworthy was in the direction he was running. Eventually, he was in another used car lot about 15 feet behind as Rosenbaum shouted at Rittenhouse, threw a clear plastic bag at him and lunged for his AR-15.
Rittenhouse shot four times and Rosenbaum slumped to the ground, at which point McGinniss ran over, flipped Rosenbaum over and removed his shirt to use to put pressure on Rosenbaum's wounds. McGinniss became visibly upset Thursday when Binger played video he took of Rosenbaum’s body before he helped load him into the trunk of an SUV and take him to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“I’m never going to forget it,” McGinniss said.
Prosecutors next called Ryan Balch, a Jackson, Wisconsin, man who met Rittenhouse when he and others “just decided to come down and help out” in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, after hearing from protesters he knew that “it was rough down there.”
Balch — a U.S. Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — described Kenosha that night as looking like a war zone. He, like Rittenhouse, was armed with an AR-15 and wore body armor as he protected the same used car lot Rittenhouse and others were already defending at the request of the lot's owner when he arrived, aiming mainly to act as a deterrent against further property damage.
“He seemed like a young and impressionable kid,” Balch said of Rittenhouse, who falsely told Balch he was 19 and a certified EMT. Further describing Rittenhouse as “underequipped and underexperienced,” Balch said he decided to stick with the then 17-year-old for much of the night.
At some point the two got separated. Later, Balch was in the area when he heard the shootings of Huber and Grosskreutz. He saw a friend tending to Grosskreutz’s wound and did not feel a pulse when he checked on Huber before helping law enforcement load his body into an armored vehicle.
Balch did not immediately assume Rittenhouse had done the shooting, but admitted he did not approach police after learning that night that he had.
A central thrust of the defense’s case is that Rosenbaum was erratic and violent and provoked Rittenhouse into shooting. Balch testified to Rosenbaum’s behavior to that effect, calling him “extremely aggressive” and “always having to be restrained by someone” when Balch saw him at various points in the evening, at certain points trying to light things on fire.
Though Balch did not see Rosenbaum harm anyone, he confirmed Rosenbaum told Rittenhouse and himself to their faces that he would kill them if they were ever alone.