KENOSHA – Testimony from a pair of process witnesses Tuesday may have advanced the prosecution’s case against Kyle Rittenhouse further than eyewitnesses who gave chilling accounts earlier about the carnage they saw on Aug. 25, 2020.
Rittenhouse, 18, faces counts of intentional, reckless and attempted homicide for shooting three men during violent protests that night.
Through much the first five days of testimony, cellphone video and testimony from various participants did little to undermine the defense’s assertion Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
Even key state witnesses affirmed that one of Rittenhouse’s victims had been acting aggressively and erratically all night, and had threatened at one point to kill, and that another had pointed a gun at Rittenhouse before he shot him in the arm.
New drone video and a medical examiner’s explanation of gunshot wounds Tuesday cast a different light on the first homicide just before the prosecution rested at midday.
James Armstrong, a forensic imaging specialist with the Wisconsin Crime Lab, introduced aerial drone video taken from just south of the intersection of Sheridan Road and 63rd Street. It was there that Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, after a short chase.
Most other video jurors have seen up to this point came from people on the ground, or an FBI plane nearly 9,000 feet in the air, and from the east or north of the scene.
In the video shown Tuesday, Rittenhouse doesn’t seem to stop between two cars where he shot Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum also doesn’t seem as close to him as other videos and testimony suggested, though he appeared to quickly gain ground on Rittenhouse.
Armstrong testified he enhanced the footage over the weekend by zooming in and slowing it down.
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Jurors also heard from Doug Kelley, an assistant medical examiner from Milwaukee.
He conducted autopsies of Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, who was fatally shot by Rittenhouse a few minutes later.
In all, Rosenbaum suffered five wounds, caused by four shots from Rittenhouse’s assault-style rifle.
One shot, to the groin, broke Rosenbaum’s pelvis. One bullet grazed the top of his head down to the right forehead.
One shot entered the center of Rosenbaum’s back, then badly damaged his lungs and liver and fractured several ribs. One shot went through Rosenbaum’s left hand, likely ricocheted off the pavement and then hit Rosenbaum’s thigh, Kelley said.
Based on the wounds, their angles and video of the event, Kelley testified the first shot was to the groin from about four feet away, which could have made Rosenbaum fall. The second was to his hand, possibly as he tried to push away the rifle’s muzzle.
The graze to his head and the fatal shot to the back must have come after Rosenbaum had reached a horizontal position, he said, though he didn’t have an opinion about their order.
Kelley said all but the shot to the hand were probably fired from intermediate range — with the muzzle between one and four feet from Rosenbaum.
Defense counsel say Rosenbaum lunged at Rittenhouse in an effort to disarm him and shoot him with his own weapon after sprinting after him across the Car Source parking lot.
During cross examination of Kelley, defense attorney Mark Richards got into an elaborate demonstration in front of the jury, as a detective on the case held Rittenhouse’s rifle. He was turning different ways with his left hand on, over or near the end of the barrel.
Judge Bruce Schroeder asked news photographers to come forward and take pictures for the court record.
If Kelley’s version was correct, Rittenhouse hit Rosenbaum twice before firing the lethal shot to the back.
After the two witnesses concluded, the state rested its case, and the defense began its case Tuesday afternoon.
Nicholas Smith, 23, testified he used to work at Car Source, and had known the owners for 10 years. He said one of them had called him and asked for his help in protecting the business from further damage after arsonists destroyed one of its three locations during the first night of rioting in Kenosha.
He said Anmol “Sam” Khindri had even promised to pay him a couple hundred dollars to share with the other people Smith would recruit for the task, but that Khindri never paid him. Last week, Khindri and his brother, Sahil, each testified they had not asked for protection or even knowingly accepted any.
Smith said after putting out fires at Car Source on Aug. 24, he contacted three friends about standing guard at the repair shop on the 25th. That afternoon, he said, he noticed on Snapchat that Dominick Black was downtown. Smith asked for a ride to get body armor, and met Black and Rittenhouse, who loaned him his own body armor. Black and Rittenhouse decided to join Smith’s group that night.
Smith said they were with Sahil Khindri at the 63rd Street Car Source lot when four people from the West Bend area pulled up, and said they were in town to help. Smith said they agreed to help guard Car Source.
Two of that group, Jason Lackowski and Ryan Balch, testified last week for the prosecution. On Tuesday, the defense called a woman who had come to Kenosha with them, JoAnn Fiedler, 56, of West Bend.
Fiedler said she’d been watching the news all summer, and that she understood why people would march for Black Lives Matter. Once marches began turning violent and destructive, she started a patriots group, during which she met Balch.
“Somebody’s got to stand up,” she testified.
She said there was no plan beyond arriving in Kenosha to help protect homes and businesses, and that it was purely chance they met Rittenhouse’s group.
Fiedler brought her .380-caliber handgun, openly carried on her hip, as deterrence, she said.
While standing outside Car Source at 59th Street, she said she heard Rosenbaum threaten to kill her group, and cut their hearts out, but she and everyone else just ignored him.
After Rittenhouse had shot three people and walked past police, he returned to 59th Street, Fiedler said, and she opened the door to let him in.
She described him as being in shock, and said he repeatedly said he had shot someone, and that he had to do it. Fiedler said she took his rifle outside, laid it down and went on the roof to tell Black and the others what had happened.
Soon after Smith returned to the shop and said police were coming, everyone left, Fiedler testified.
Also Tuesday, Schroeder denied a defense motion to dismiss a misdemeanor charge that Rittenhouse illegally possessed a firearm as a minor, but agreed to drop a curfew violation ticket that was among the charges.