Volunteer medic tells Kyle Rittenhouse trial he was pointing his gun at accused when he was shot
Rittenhouse, 18, charged with fatally shooting 2 men and injuring a 3rd
A protester and volunteer medic wounded on the streets of Kenosha, Wis., by Kyle Rittenhouse testified Monday that he was unintentionally pointing his own gun at the rifle-toting Rittenhouse when the teenager shot him.
Gaige Grosskreutz, the third and final man gunned down by Rittenhouse during a night of turbulent protests against racial injustice in the summer of 2020, took the stand at Rittenhouse's trial and recounted how he drew his own pistol after the bloodshed started.
"I thought the defendant was an active shooter," said Grosskreutz, 27. Asked what was going through his mind as he got closer to Rittenhouse, then 17, he said, "That I was going to die."
Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz in the arm, tearing away much of his bicep — or, as the witness put it, it was "vaporized."
Under questioning from the prosecution, Grosskreutz said he had his hands raised as he closed in on Rittenhouse and didn't intend to shoot the young man. Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked Grosskreutz why he didn't shoot first.
"That's not the kind of person that I am. That's not why I was out there," he said. "It's not who I am. And definitely not somebody I would want to become."
But during cross-examination, Rittenhouse defence lawyer Corey Chirafisi asked: "It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him — that he fired, right?"
"Correct," Grosskreutz replied. The defence also presented a photo showing Grosskreutz pointing the gun at Rittenhouse, who was on the ground with his rifle pointed up at Grosskreutz.
Grosskreutz, under follow-up questioning from the lead prosecutor, said he did not intend to point his gun at Rittenhouse.
Accused said he was safeguarding property
Rittenhouse, now 18, is on trial on charges of killing two men and wounding Grosskreutz. He has pleaded not guilty to all seven charges he faces, including two counts of homicide, one reckless and one intentional, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety.
The one-time police youth cadet from Antioch, Ill., had gone to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle and a medical kit in what he said was an effort to safeguard property from damage during demonstrations that broke out over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha police officer.
Prosecutors have portrayed Rittenhouse as the instigator of the violence. His lawyers have argued that he acted in self-defence. He could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges against him.
Grosskreutz said he had gone to the protest in Kenosha to serve as a volunteer medic, wearing a hat that said "paramedic" and carrying medical supplies, in addition to a loaded pistol.
Grosskreutz said his permit to carry a concealed weapon had expired and he did not have a valid permit that night.
"I believe in the Second Amendment. I'm for people's right to carry and bear arms," he said, explaining why he was armed. "And that night was no different than any other day. It's keys, phone, wallet, gun."
He said he went into action after seeing Rittenhouse kill a man a short distance away — the second person Rittenhouse fatally shot that night.
Injured man denies chasing Rittenhouse
On cross-examination, defence lawyer Chirafisi sought to portray Grosskreutz as dishonest in his description of the moments right before he was shot. Chirafisi asserted that Grosskreutz was chasing Rittenhouse with his gun out, and he also said that Grosskreutz lied when he initially told multiple police officers that he dropped his weapon.
Grosskreutz denied he was chasing Rittenhouse.
Chirafisi also pointed to Grosskreutz's lawsuit against the city of Kenosha, in which he alleges police enabled the violence by allowing an armed militia to have the run of the streets during the demonstration.
"If Mr. Rittenhouse is convicted, your chance of getting 10 million bucks is better, right?" Chirafisi said.
The defence lawyer asked Grosskreutz if he told his former roommate that his only regret was "not killing the kid and hesitating to pull the gun before emptying the entire mag into him." Grosskreutz said: "No, I never said that."
At the defence table, Rittenhouse kept his eyes on Grosskreutz as he testified, taking detailed notes when the witness spoke about the moment he was shot.
One juror nodded her head in agreement when the judge instructed the jury to disregard Grosskreutz's referring to Rittenhouse's fatal shooting of another protester as a "murder."
Grosskreutz attended around 75 other protests
Grosskreutz, who was trained as a paramedic, testified that he volunteered as a medic at protests in Milwaukee in the days after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020.
Grosskreutz said he attended around 75 protests before the night he was shot, offering help to anyone needing medical attention.
He said he provided medical assistance to about 10 other people that night in Kenosha.
Rittenhouse is white, as are the three men he shot, but the case has stirred furious debate about the racial unrest that erupted around the U.S. during the summer of 2020, as well as about vigilantism and the right to bear arms.
Last week at Rittenhouse's trial, witnesses testified that the first man who was shot and killed, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, was "hyperaggressive" and "acting belligerently" that night and threatened to kill Rittenhouse at one point.
One witness said Rosenbaum was gunned down after he chased Rittenhouse and lunged for the young man's rifle.
Rosenbaum's killing set in motion the bloodshed that followed moments later: Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, a 26-year-old protester seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse then wounded Grosskreutz.
With files from CBC News