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Shooting survivor takes stand in Rittenhouse murder trial

A certified EMT paramedic described fearing for his life right before he was shot by the 18-year-old at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, along with two others who died.

KENOSHA, Wis. (CN) — The man who survived being shot by Kyle Rittenhouse at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year testified at the 18-year-old’s homicide trial on Monday.

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 white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, 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.

Grosskreutz, a native of the Milwaukee area and a certified EMT paramedic since 2014, appeared in court as prosecutors’ first witness for Monday, giving testimony regarding his shooting supplemented by graphic pictures and videos of his injury.

Throughout the summer of 2020, Grosskreutz took part in peaceful protests around Milwaukee in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. After noticing a lack of organized first-aid presence, Grosskreutz coordinated with local activists to offer his services as a volunteer medic while not actively participating in the demonstrations to avoid any ethics issues.

Grosskreutz arrived in Kenosha alone on Aug. 25, 2020, at about 7 p.m. The scene was already chaotic as clashes between law enforcement and protesters started ramping up and, Grosskreutz thought, carried a risk of injuries. He had his medic bag and was wearing a blue baseball cap with white upper-case letters reading “PARAMEDIC.”

Grosskreutz carried his Glock pistol that night, which he said on Monday he has with him all the time.

“I believe in the Second Amendment…that night was no different than any other day. It’s keys, phone, wallet, gun,” he said.

He admitted that, though he did not know it at the time, his concealed carry permit was invalid on Aug. 25, 2020.

As an ACLU legal observer, Grosskreutz was also streaming the protest live on Facebook with his phone. Some of this video shown to the jury on Monday portrayed Grosskreutz jogging alongside Rittenhouse as the latter headed toward a police line after killing Rosenbaum and asking if he shot somebody. In the video Rittenhouse says he's going to the police and that he didn't do anything.

Grosskreutz had encountered Rittenhouse and other what he called “self-proclaimed militia” members earlier in the night. Given the sounds of gunshots, Rittenhouse running and people screaming that he had shot someone, combined with the other surrounding chaos, Grosskreutz thought someone might be hurt in that direction and, eventually, that Rittenhouse was an active shooter.

During direct examination from Assistant Kenosha County District Attorney Thomas Binger, Grosskreutz admitted to unholstering his Glock from the small of his back before Rittenhouse, from the ground, shot and missed a man who kicked him and shot and killed Huber after the latter hit Rittenhouse with his skateboard.

“I didn’t draw my firearm with the express intent of using it, but also being ready if I had to use it,” Grosskreutz said.

In the seconds after Rittenhouse shot Huber, Grosskreutz approached Rittenhouse, at first with his hands up, holding his cell phone in one hand and his pistol in the other.

“I thought there was a high likelihood that I would be shot myself,” Grosskreutz said, admitting he thought he was going to die in that moment.

Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz in his right arm. The injury was severe.

“I effectively lost a large majority of my right bicep,” Grosskreutz said.

Ryan Balch and Jason Lackowski – both of whom were armed with long rifles while guarding a used car lot with Rittenhouse on the night of the shootings and testified on Thursday and Friday of last week, respectively – can be seen in pictures near Grosskreutz and helping secure a tourniquet around his arm shortly after he was shot.

Grosskreutz described his bicep at one point on Monday as being “vaporized” by Rittenhouse’s bullet. After several surgeries and months of physical therapy, he can move the arm but does not have feeling from the site of his wound near the crease of his elbow down through the tips of his fingers.

Madison defense attorney Corey Chirafisi, one of Kyle Rittenhouse's lawyers in his homicide trial for killing two and injuring a third at a Kenosha, Wis, protest in the summer of 2020, questions shooting survivor Gaige Grosskreutz at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Image via Courthouse News)

During the start of cross-examination before the court took a lunch break, Madison defense attorney Corey Chirafisi drilled Grosskreutz about omissions and false statements he has made to police since his shooting, including that he repeatedly did not tell law enforcement he was armed when he was shot. Grosskreutz said this was due, in part, to fearing for his safety, advice from his attorney, the traumatic experience he had undergone and being dazed from medication and surgeries.

The defense made the case, assisted by snippets of video and pictures, that Grosskreutz chased Rittenhouse before he was shot and that Rittenhouse did not shoot Grosskreutz when he had his hands up and was backing away, but only shot after Grosskreutz moved back toward the 18-year-old with his pistol pointed at him.

Chirafisi also noted for the jury that Grosskreutz is seeking millions in damages from the city and county of Kenosha in a civil lawsuit he filed last month. That lawsuit claims law enforcement conspired with armed militia on the night of the shootings, something Grosskreutz alluded to in less specific terms on Monday.

“This is your testimony today, and how this case turns out has an impact on your ability to collect your $10 million,” Chirafisi said, pointing out that if Rittenhouse is convicted, Grosskreutz’s chance of getting that money increases.

As Chirafisi further questioned him, Grosskreutz admitted to having spoken at a rally for The People's Revolution, an activist group based in Milwaukee, since his shooting. He said he is affiliated with the group but is not a member.

Testifying Monday afternoon for the state was Kenosha detective Ben Antaramian, one of two lead investigators assigned to the Rittenhouse case after responding to a call about a shooting that turned out to be that of Rosenbaum. The second detective, Martin Howard, testified last Wednesday and Thursday.

During Chirafisi’s cross-examination, the defense attorney pressed Antaramian as to why police never executed a search warrant for Grosskreutz’s phone after he ultimately declined to give law enforcement permission to look through it. The detective said part of the reason was because the prosecution advised them not to due to Marsy’s Law, an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution adopted in April of 2020 that expands rights for victims of crimes.

Antaramian additionally said there was a discrepancy between Grosskreutz’s statements to police about being armed on Aug. 25, 2020, and evidence that he dropped his pistol after being shot, but Grosskreutz’s attorney advised him not to answer questions about that later on in the investigation.

Monday’s proceedings also featured testimony from another Kenosha cop who encountered Rittenhouse when he tried to turn himself in after the shootings, a firearms examiner with the Wisconsin state crime lab in Milwaukee who examined Rittenhouse’s AR-15 and a citizen journalist who was livestreaming the unrest on the night of the shootings.

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Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, Trials

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