A witness in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial told a Wisconsin jury Friday that he didn’t feel threatened by the first man fatally shot by the accused gunman.
Jason Lackowski — who went to Kenosha the night that Rittenhouse, 18, fatally shot two men and wounded another — recalled victim Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, “acting belligerently” when he was asking people to shoot him and taunting them to come at him by “false stepping.”
“He did a few false stepping — making a step to entice someone to do something,” Lackowski testified. “After he did that a few times, I turned my back to him and ignored him.”
An armed Lackowski — who says he came out the night of the chaotic Black Lives Matter demonstrations to stop looting — then told jurors that he thought Rosenbaum was “a babbling idiot,” who had no visible weapon and who he felt posed no threat to himself or others.
On Thursday, Ryan Balch — whom Lackowski said he met up with the night of the incident “to help out” — testified that Rosenbaum was threatening to kill Rittenhouse and Balch and was acting violently and trying to start a dumpster fire.
Balch also testified that Rosenbaum eventually lunged at Rittenhouse, then 17, trying to take his AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon from him. Rittenhouse allegedly responded by firing at Rosenbaum, who died shortly after.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued in opening statements that he fired his gun in self-defense against Rosenbaum, who “lit the fuse that night.”
Lackowski admitted that Rosenbaum didn’t threaten to kill him — as he had Rittenhouse — nor was he alone with the man at any point. Lackowski also admitted that Rosenbaum didn’t lunge for his weapon as he did to Rittenhouse.
Lackowski told the jury that he remembered briefly meeting up with a “frazzled” Rittenhouse, who was running and said he needed help. He first met Rittenhouse, who introduced himself as an EMT, earlier in the evening.
Lackowski said he pointed Rittenhouse in the direction of police and told him to get their help before the pair ran off and eventually split from each other.
Lackowski — who testified that he didn’t see the shootings but recalled hearing the gunfire — said he didn’t know that Rittenhouse had shot anyone at the time.
He also recalled hearing people yelling “Get him!” but didn’t know to whom they were referring. Lackowski also testified that he “blacked out” for some period of time during the melee.
Prosecutors argued in opening statements that Rittenhouse — a one-time aspiring cop — was a vigilante who was the only one to open fire despite hundreds taking to the streets days after black man Jacob Blake was shot by police, an event that sparked outrage.