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Kyle Rittenhouse’s Testimony: What We Learned

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

The judge is about to adjourn the court for the day. Tomorrow morning, Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyers plan to call their use-of-force expert to the stand.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Judge Bruce Schroeder says he expects that closing arguments from prosecutors and Rittenhouse’s lawyers will take place on Monday or Tuesday, after which the jurors will begin their deliberations.

Kyle Rittenhouse and Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger watch an aerial video of the moments when he shot Jospeh Rosenbaum.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

In a lengthy cross-examination on Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors repeatedly questioned Kyle Rittenhouse’s motives when he went to Kenosha, Wis., and sought to cast doubt on the reasonableness of his decision to shoot three people, killing two of them.

Here are some key exchanges from the courtroom:

  • Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, pressed Mr. Rittenhouse about why he aimed a rifle at Joseph Rosenbaum, who had run toward him but was unarmed. “You wanted him to get the message from you that if you come any closer, I’m going to kill you,” Mr. Binger said. “That’s why you pointed the gun at him, right?”

    Mr. Rittenhouse said he did not want to kill Mr. Rosenbaum, though he believed Mr. Rosenbaum was trying to disarm him. “If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it and probably killed more people,” Mr. Rittenhouse said.

  • Mr. Binger spent part of the cross-examination suggesting that Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, had no business walking city streets with a powerful weapon. He highlighted Mr. Rittenhouse’s limited expertise with the semiautomatic rifle, asking questions about the range of guns like the one he carried and the differences between types of ammunition. “I’m not an expert on AR-15s,” Mr. Rittenhouse said.

  • Mr. Binger noted that a curfew was in place on the night of the shooting and questioned why Mr. Rittenhouse decided to stay on the streets after sundown. “Why not go home?” Mr. Binger asked him. Mr. Rittenhouse responded that he had hoped to provide first aid to people.

  • Mr. Rittenhouse struggled to give clear answers to questions about why he brought his gun as he ran toward a car lot with a fire extinguisher, the event that immediately preceded his shooting of Mr. Rosenbaum. Prosecutors repeatedly questioned Mr. Rittenhouse’s decision to carry a high-powered gun when his stated purpose for being at the scene was to give medical care and protect property. “I brought the gun for my protection,” Mr. Rittenhouse said, adding he didn’t think he would feel the need to use it.

  • Near the end of his testimony, Mr. Rittenhouse was pressed by the prosecutor over whether the threats to his safety were serious enough to warrant him firing his AR-15. Mr. Binger noted that no one had shot Mr. Rittenhouse, and that although one of the men he shot was holding a gun, Mr. Rittenhouse had pointed his gun at the man first.

    Pointing out that Mr. Rittenhouse had told people in Kenosha that he was a medic, Mr. Binger asked why he had not provided first aid to Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he shot and who died of his injuries. Mr. Rittenhouse said a crowd of people began to run after him as soon as he fired his gun and that he believed he needed to flee the area for his own safety.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

The lead prosecutor has finished his cross-examination of Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been testifying since about 9:30 Kenosha time this morning in what has been the most high-profile moment of the trial over his shooting of three people. The court is taking a short break before Rittenhouse’s lawyers call their next witness.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Prosecutors are now walking slowly through a video of Kyle Rittenhouse firing an AR-15 at the second and third people that he shot that night: Anthony Huber, who was killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who was injured. Huber was swinging a skateboard at Rittenhouse, and Grosskreutz testified earlier this week that he had aimed a gun at Rittenhouse just before he was shot.

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Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

The prosecution appears to be trying to argue that Rittenhouse did not have a valid self-defense reason for shooting either man, which gets to the heart of his defense.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Prosecutors are using Kyle Rittenhouse’s decision to testify to show several videos from the shootings while he sits on the stand. In one video, taken shortly after Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse yells to the people that are chasing him that Rosenbaum was armed, something that he now admits on the stand was not true.

Daniel E. Slotnik

Kyle Rittenhouse became emotional on the stand as he detailed his actions on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, at one point breaking into sobs.Credit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg

Whether Kyle Rittenhouse’s emotional testimony on Wednesday will ultimately help or hurt his defense hinges on whether the jury felt he was sincere, several legal experts said.

Answering questions from his own lawyers, Mr. Rittenhouse detailed his actions on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, at one point breaking into sobs as he described the circumstances that led to him fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during unrest in Kenosha, Wis.

Defendants have the right to testify at their trial, but are not required to do so. Taking the stand can be a risky gambit for a criminal defendant, in part because he or she may come off as insincere, unlikable or untrustworthy, according to Keith Findley, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and a founder of the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

Even so, Mr. Findley said, in a case like Mr. Rittenhouse’s, “I would typically think calling the defendant to testify makes sense, especially if that testimony is needed to really convey to the jury what threats the defendant might have been perceiving at the time.”

Whether Mr. Rittenhouse’s testimony proves helpful to his defense “probably turns on how effective he is as a communicator and how sympathetic he comes across to jurors,” Mr. Findley said.

Julius Kim, a defense lawyer and former assistant district attorney in Milwaukee, said on Wednesday that “from what I’ve seen so far, I think he’s helped himself.”

“He has clearly articulated why he did what he did,” Mr. Kim added. “But on top of that, we saw a lot of emotion from him at one point in his testimony, and I think that evoked a lot of sympathy from people and the jury.”

Such displays of emotion can be counterproductive, especially if they come off as insincere, Mr. Kim said. But they can also humanize a defendant for the jury.

“People remembered at that moment that he was 17 at the time this incident occurred, and is 18 now and a young adult,” Mr. Kim said of Mr. Rittenhouse. “And despite the horror of the situation, I think most people saw him on the stand as a kid.”

Colin Miller, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, said in an email that he was less certain that Mr. Rittenhouse’s loss of composure on the witness stand would help his case.

“If the jury thinks these were genuine tears of remorse, it could help the defense,” Mr. Miller said. “If the jury thinks these were crocodile tears, it could very much hurt the defense.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

In questioning Kyle Rittenhouse, the prosecutor Thomas Binger is narrowing in on whether his self-defense argument is reasonable and asking what risk Joseph Rosenbaum posed when Rittenhouse shot and killed him. “If I would’ve let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would’ve used it and killed me with it and probably killed more people,” Rittenhouse responds. He sounds and appears as if he’s near tears for the second time today.

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Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Kyle Rittenhouse is back on the stand being cross-examined by the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger. The prosecution showed a video of Rittenhouse fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, the first of three people he shot during a night of unrest in Kenosha in August 2020 following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. It’s unclear whether the judge will allow prosecutors to zoom in on the video, which was the subject of arguing among lawyers for each side.

Kyle Rittenhouse watches video of himself on the night of the shootings.Credit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg

An unexpected dispute about whether zooming can distort a video image forced a short recess in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial on Wednesday, following the latest testy exchange between prosecutors and the judge overseeing the case.

As part of his cross-examination of Mr. Rittenhouse, Thomas Binger, the assistant district attorney who is leading the prosecution, was preparing to have a video played in court on an iPad, showing Mr. Rittenhouse fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum. When Mr. Binger indicated that a zoom function on the iPad would be used, Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers objected.

Mark Richards, one of Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers, claimed that if prosecutors zoomed in on the video, the Apple software on the device might show a distorted version by “creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there.”

That objection set off a 10-minute discussion among the lawyers and Judge Bruce Schroeder. Mr. Binger said zooming in on images shown on iPads, iPhones and other similar devices is a routine part of daily life that all jurors would understand, and that the procedure would not affect the integrity of the image.

He argued that if the defense lawyers thought otherwise, they should have to present expert testimony saying so. But Judge Schroeder said that the burden was on Mr. Binger to prove that zooming would not distort the video.

“Is the image in its virginal state?” the judge asked.

Mr. Binger then asked for an adjournment, but Judge Schroeder denied the request. Instead, he ordered a 15-minute recess and suggested that Mr. Binger could, perhaps, get somebody to testify to the zoomed video’s accuracy “within minutes.”

Justin Blake, uncle of Jacob Blake, outside the Kenosha County Courthouse last week.Credit…Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York Times

As the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has unfolded over recent days, the scene outside the Kenosha County Courthouse has been largely quiet.

The most consistent figure on the stone steps during the trial has been Justin Blake, an uncle of Jacob Blake, the Black Kenosha resident who was shot by a white police officer in 2020, setting off the demonstrations that brought Mr. Rittenhouse to the area.

Jacob Blake, who survived the shooting but was partially paralyzed, has moved away, family members say. But Justin Blake was in front of the court again on Wednesday while Mr. Rittenhouse testified. Mr. Blake has often been alone or with just a handful of people as the trial has played out, though he said he believed others would join him for a protest later in the day.

He said he thinks the rights of Black people — including the right to protest — depend on Mr. Rittenhouse being found guilty. He voiced anger at learning that Mr. Rittenhouse had cried on the witness stand, alluding to the men he killed, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum.

“Where are the tears,” he said, for the families of Mr. Huber and Mr. Rosenbaum?

Supporters of Mr. Rittenhouse have occasionally joined Mr. Blake on the steps. On Wednesday, Karen Lee Spitzer of Kenosha stood nearby clutching a U.S. flag and wearing a sweatshirt with the slogan “All Lives Matter” drawn by hand in red. She said that the authorities should have been more aggressive with those who caused property damage back in 2020.

“You don’t set things on fire in this country,” she said.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyers are objecting to the prosecutor’s effort to show the jury a video of Rittenhouse fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, the first of three people he shot that night. They appear to specifically be arguing that prosecutors should not be allowed to zoom in on the iPad that would be used to play the video because it might distort the image.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

The court is now taking a short break, with the judge suggesting that the prosecution might need to find an expert to testify on whether zooming in on an iPad video inserts extra pixels.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

The prosecutor continues to try to paint Kyle Rittenhouse as the aggressor, asking him why he brought his AR-15 rifle with him when he went from one part of Kenosha, where he was defending a property, to another to help put out fires. Rittenhouse replies that he didn’t take off the gun simply because he had no one to hand it to and because he thought he might need it for protection.

Mitch Smith

Corey Chirafisi, center, a defense lawyer for Mr. Rittenhouse, left, took issue with prosecutors’ references to Mr. Rittenhouse’s silence in the months before the trial.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Lawyers for Kyle Rittenhouse accused prosecutors of misconduct on Wednesday afternoon, and asked Judge Bruce Schroeder to declare a mistrial with no possibility of a retrial.

Corey Chirafisi, a defense lawyer, took issue with prosecutors’ references to Mr. Rittenhouse’s silence in the months before the trial, and with an attempt by the prosecution to introduce testimony on a previous episode that the judge had ruled inadmissible. Mr. Chirafisi suggested that prosecutors may have acted in bad faith, making it necessary not only to declare a mistrial but also to do so “with prejudice,” meaning that there could not be another trial with a new jury.

The judge did not immediately rule on the request.

The defense’s request came after a morning of fiery exchanges between Judge Schroeder and Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor in the case, over what the judge perceived to be violations of his orders. Judge Schroeder scolded Mr. Binger again in the afternoon as the prosecutor argued against the motion for a mistrial.

“You’re an experienced trial attorney, and you’re telling me that when the judge says, ‘I’m excluding this,’ you just take it upon yourself to put it in because you think that you found a way around it? Come on,” Judge Schroeder said.

Mr. Binger denied doing anything wrong.

Judge Schroeder said he would give prosecutors more time to respond to the mistrial motion, and Mr. Binger was allowed to resume cross-examination of Mr. Rittenhouse. But the judge made clear that he believed Mr. Binger had intentionally defied his orders.

“When you say that you were acting in good faith, I don’t believe that, OK?” Judge Schroeder said. He warned that “there better not be another incident.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

The prosecutor is hammering Kyle Rittenhouse on whether he expected to be in danger when he went to Kenosha that night in August 2020, during the protests after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He appears to be trying to make a case that Rittenhouse was the one who made the situation more dangerous by going there and bringing a gun. Rittenhouse responds that he didn’t think he would be attacked, but brought the gun for protection in case he was.

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Rittenhouse Questioned on His Use of Deadly Force

Thomas Binger, a prosecutor, questioned Kyle Rittenhouse on his decision to use deadly force in shooting three men, two of whom he killed, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis.

“Everybody that you shot at that night, you intended to kill, correct?” “I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended it to — I intended to stop the people who were attacking me.” “By killing them.” “I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me.” “By killing them.” “Two of them passed away, but I stopped the threat from attacking me.” “By using deadly force.” “I used deadly force.” “That you knew was going to kill.” “I didn’t know if it was going to kill them, but I used the, I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.” “You intentionally used deadly force against Joseph Rosenbaum, correct?” “Yes.” “You intentionally used deadly force against the man who came and tried to kick you in the face.” “Yes.” “Correct? You intentionally use deadly force against Anthony Huber, correct?” “Yes.” “You intentionally used deadly force against Gaige Grosskreutz, correct?” “Yes.”

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Thomas Binger, a prosecutor, questioned Kyle Rittenhouse on his decision to use deadly force in shooting three men, two of whom he killed, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg

Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, began his cross-examination of Kyle Rittenhouse on Wednesday with a series of questions on whether he meant to kill each of the three men he shot in Kenosha, Wis., two of whom died.

Here is a transcript of their opening exchange.

Binger: Everybody that you shot at that night, you intended to kill, correct?

Rittenhouse: I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me.

Binger: By killing them?

Rittenhouse: I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me.

Binger: By killing them?

Rittenhouse: Two of them passed away, but I stopped the threat from attacking me.

Binger: By using deadly force?

Rittenhouse: I used deadly force.

Binger: That you knew was going to kill?

Rittenhouse: I didn’t know if I was going to kill them, but I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.

Binger: You intentionally used deadly force against Joseph Rosenbaum, correct?

Rittenhouse: Yes.

Binger: You intentionally use deadly force against the man who came and tried to kick you in the face, correct?

Rittenhouse: Yes.

Binger: You intentionally use deadly force against Anthony Huber, correct?

Rittenhouse: Yes.

Binger: You intentionally use deadly force against Gaige Grosskreutz, correct?

Rittenhouse: Yes.

Binger: With regard to Joseph Rosenbaum, you fired four shots at him, correct?

Rittenhouse: Yes.

Binger: You intended to kill him, correct?

Rittenhouse: I didn’t intend to kill. I intended to stop the person who was attacking me and trying to steal my gun.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

On the request from Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyers for a mistrial, the judge said he would take it under advisement but does not want to rule on the matter yet, so the trial is continuing with the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger, again questioning Rittenhouse on the stand.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Prosecutors also asked the judge to allow them to question Kyle Rittenhouse about a photograph of him, taken months after the shootings, that shows him wearing a shirt that said “Free as…” followed by a four-letter expletive. The judge, who had previously ruled it was inadmissible, said he continues to believe it should not be brought up at trial.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Judge Bruce Schroeder again clashes with the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger, over a line of questioning from this morning, raising his voice and saying, “I don’t believe you.” Schroeder warns that there “better not be another incident” in which the prosecutor tries to bring in evidence that the judge has suggested should not be shown to the jury.

Julie Bosman

Court has resumed in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, with the defense complaining about prosecution tactics during the defendant’s testimony earlier today.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Rittenhouse’s lawyers say they are asking the judge to call a mistrial with prejudice because prosecutors discussed Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent in front of the jury. If approved by the judge, the unusual request would mean that Rittenhouse could not be retried for the crimes.

Julie Bosman

Judge Bruce Schroeder began working as a circuit judge in 1983.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Bruce Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin, is presiding over the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.

At times during Mr. Rittenhouse’s testimony on Wednesday he took a strict line with prosecutors, clashing with them over a reference to Mr. Rittenhouse’s silence in the months before the trial and an attempt to introduce testimony on a previous incident that the judge had ruled inadmissible.

“The problem is this is a grave constitutional violation for you to talk about the defendant’s silence,” Judge Schroeder told prosecutors.

Judge Schroeder, 75, who has said he believes that he has seen more homicide trials than any other judge in the state, graduated from Marquette Law School in 1970, worked as a prosecutor and began serving as a circuit judge in 1983.

His longevity is a subject of frequent conversation in the courtroom. As he said during jury selection in the trial, he has been “in this business for 50 years.”

In Kenosha legal circles, Judge Schroeder has a reputation for strictness in sentencing. He is known for delivering lectures to prospective jurors about their civic duty, which in this trial he likened to serving as an American soldier in Vietnam.

He frequently complains about media bias and the impact that news coverage can have on prospective jurors. As Judge Schroeder quizzed prospective jurors, he said that he has read news articles on the Rittenhouse case and has asked himself whether he was in the same courtroom that was described in the articles.

He has also acknowledged that some of the topics raised in pretrial hearings are new to him. Until this case, Judge Schroeder said in a hearing, he had never heard of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that offered support to Mr. Rittenhouse after the Kenosha shootings, and was unfamiliar with the “O.K.” hand sign as a gesture that has been co-opted by white supremacists.

“The first time I saw it, or a version of it, was Chef Boyardee on a can of spaghetti,” the judge said.

In one of the judge’s highest-profile cases, the 2008 murder trial of Mark Jensen — who was accused of poisoning his wife, Julie, with antifreeze and then smothering her in their garage — a conviction was overturned when appellate courts and the state Supreme Court ruled that Judge Schroeder had improperly allowed evidence in the trial.

The judge allowed the prosecution to present a letter that Julie Jensen had written and given to a neighbor, as well as voice mail messages she left for a police officer, suggesting that if anything happened to her, her husband would be responsible. Mr. Jensen will face a new trial next year.

The day after the shooting, people revisited one of the sites where Kyle Rittenhouse killed a man.Credit…Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Here are the six charges Kyle Rittenhouse faces in the trial, numbered the way they are in the criminal complaint, which does not list them in order of severity (the most severe is Count 3).

Five are felony counts; one is a misdemeanor. For each of the felonies, the complaint lists an aggravating factor that could add to the basic sentence if he is convicted.

Count 1

First-degree reckless homicide

Under Wisconsin law, this crime is defined as recklessly causing the death of another human being under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life. It is not necessary for prosecutors to prove intent to kill. (Charges that are generally known as murder counts in other states are called homicides under Wisconsin law.)

Mr. Rittenhouse is accused of this crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Joseph D. Rosenbaum. It is a Class B felony carrying a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.

Counts 2 and 5

First-degree recklessly endangering safety

The law defines this crime as recklessly endangering another person’s safety under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life.

Mr. Rittenhouse is charged with recklessly endangering two people who, according to the criminal complaint, had shots fired toward them but were not hit: Richard McGinnis and an unknown male seen in video of the episode.

The crime is a class F felony that carries a basic sentence of up to 12 and a half years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both, for each of the two counts.

Count 3

First-degree intentional homicide

The crime, analogous to first-degree murder in other states, is defined as causing the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or someone else, without the presence of certain mitigating circumstances specified in the law.

Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the fatal shooting of Anthony M. Huber. It is a Class A felony that carries a basic sentence of life in prison.

Count 4

Attempted first-degree intentional homicide

Attempting to commit first-degree intentional homicide is a Class B felony under Wisconsin law.

Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the shooting of Gaige P. Grosskreutz, who was struck and wounded. It carries a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.

Count 6

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18

Though Wisconsin is an “open-carry” state where it is legal for adults to carry firearms openly, state law prohibits minors from doing so. Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shooting.

This crime is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a basic sentence of up to nine months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

AGGRAVATING FACTOR

Use of a dangerous weapon

A provision of Wisconsin law extends the maximum sentence for crimes committed while possessing, using or threatening to use a dangerous weapon. The criminal complaint invokes this provision for all five felony counts; in each case, it could add up to five years to the prison sentence for that count, if Mr. Rittenhouse is convicted.

Julie Bosman

As the judge again begins to argue with the prosecutor, he announces that court is breaking for one hour for lunch.

Julie Bosman

The prosecutor is pushing Kyle Rittenhouse on his inexperience with the rifle he used in the shootings and various types of ammunition — and the fact that he wasn’t legally allowed to buy the weapon in Wisconsin — attempting to send a message to the jury that Rittenhouse, then 17, shouldn’t have brought it into a crowd in Kenosha.

Julie Bosman

A central theme for the prosecution in this trial has been: Should Kyle Rittenhouse, who didn’t live in Kenosha, have been there that night? Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, is pointing out that Rittenhouse defied an 8 p.m. curfew that was in place on the third night of unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Julie Bosman

The jury, unaware of the heated debate that just occurred between the judge and the prosecution over a line of questioning, has been welcomed back into the courtroom, and it appears Thomas Binger, the prosecutor, has moved on to a very different topic — returning to the events of Aug. 25, 2020.

On the witness stand, Kyle Rittenhouse, right, described wandering through Kenosha with his rifle as protesters set fires and the night grew more tense.Credit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg

Kyle Rittenhouse testified that he went to Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020, with a military-style semiautomatic rifle to render first aid and help extinguish fires, but was forced to shoot after being attacked. When his lawyers finished with his direct testimony, prosecutors began to cross-examine him.

Here are some moments that stood out from Mr. Rittenhouse’s answers to questions posed by his lawyers:

  • Mr. Rittenhouse described wandering through Kenosha with his rifle as protesters set fires and the night grew more tense. He claimed he assisted people with minor medical problems, including a woman whose ankle he wrapped, and said he helped put out a fire behind a church.

  • He also described two tense encounters with Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the men he would later kill. “Mr. Rosenbaum was walking with a steel chain, and he had a blue mask around his face, and he was just mad about something,” Mr. Rittenhouse said of the first of those encounters. Mr. Rittenhouse claimed that Mr. Rosenbaum screamed that he would kill Mr. Rittenhouse if he found Mr. Rittenhouse alone.

  • Despite receiving hostile reactions, Mr. Rittenhouse said he continued to ask people if they needed medical help. “As I’m walking down Sheridan Road,” he testified, “I hear somebody scream, ‘Burn in hell,’ and I reply with, ‘Friendly, friendly, friendly,’ to let them know, hey, I’m just here to help. I don’t want any problems. I just want to put out the fires if there are any.”

  • When Mr. Rittenhouse started to describe the moments that led to his shooting of Mr. Rosenbaum, his composure broke. His face contorted and he sobbed as he tried to continue. His mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, covered her face with her hand and wept as a woman next to her put an arm around her. Judge Bruce Schroeder called for a recess.

  • After the recess, Mr. Rittenhouse, composed once again, described the moments just before he shot and killed Mr. Rosenbaum. “A gunshot is fired from behind me, directly behind me,” he said. “And I take a few steps, and that’s when I turn around. And as I’m turning around, Mr. Rosenbaum is, I would say, from me to where the judge is, coming at me with his arms out in front of him. I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun.”

  • In describing the shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz, Mr. Rittenhouse testified that he lowered his gun and saw Mr. Grosskreutz with his hands up. But then, he said, Mr. Grosskreutz lunged at him with a pistol pointed “directly at my head.” Mr. Rittenhouse said he then fired his rifle, wounding Mr. Grosskreutz.

Julie Bosman

Judge Bruce Schroeder is getting very angry with the prosecution, with the jury out of the courtroom. In a pretrial hearing, the judge said that a previous cellphone video taken well before the shootings — of Kyle Rittenhouse saying that he wished he had his gun so that he could shoot people outside of a CVS — was not going to be allowed in court. The prosecution’s questioning appeared to reference that video.

Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic
Julie Bosman

The prosecution has argued that the cellphone video, taken weeks before the shooting, spoke to Rittenhouse’s state of mind, but the judge didn’t accept that in a previous hearing. The judge is now angrily reminding Thomas Binger, the prosecutor, of his position.

Julie Bosman

The prosecutor is raising questions about Rittenhouse’s claims that he had medical or public service training, drawing on the fact that he was captured on video on Aug. 25, the night of the shootings, telling people that he was an E.M.T., which he was not.

Julie Bosman

The prosecutor is drawing Kyle Rittenhouse out on the question of whether he could legally possess the rifle that he used the night of the shootings in Wisconsin, a point of contention between the prosecution and the defense. Dominick Black, a friend of Rittenhouse’s, purchased the gun on his behalf because Rittenhouse was a minor.

Julie Bosman

One of the six criminal charges facing Rittenhouse is possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18, a Class A misdemeanor.

A Kenosha detective holding the gun used by Kyle Rittenhouse.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial has returned again and again to the semiautomatic rifle he used to kill two men and wound a third during the unrest in Kenosha, Wis., last year. The gun — a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 — and the decisions he made while carrying it in a chaotic protest zone figure prominently as the defense offers its case and Mr. Rittenhouse testifies.

One of the six criminal counts he faces is possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 (he was 17 at the time of the shootings). He has pleaded not guilty, but it remains to be seen how his lawyers will try to defend him from that charge.

The jury has seen plentiful video images showing Mr. Rittenhouse walking the streets of Kenosha on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, with the rifle dangling by the sling he bought at a sporting goods store that day.

Mr. Rittenhouse spent that evening with a group of people who said they had gone downtown to try to guard businesses from vandalism and arson. Several people in the group carried similar guns, which generally is legal for adults to do in Wisconsin, an “open carry” state.

That added to the peril in Kenosha, according to a witness who testified in the trial last week: Richie McGinniss, a videographer for the conservative website The Daily Caller, who visited a number of cities roiled by protests that summer.

“Any time that there are guns, that elevates the level of danger in my mind,” Mr. McGinniss said on the stand.

A friend of Mr. Rittenhouse’s, Dominick Black, was carrying his own semiautomatic rifle in Kenosha that night. Mr. Black testified that he used Mr. Rittenhouse’s money to buy a comparable rifle for him at a hardware store in northern Wisconsin in May 2020, when Mr. Black was 18 but Mr. Rittenhouse was underage. They took target practice together on land owned by Mr. Black’s family, Mr. Black testified.

Mr. Black is charged with two felony counts of providing the gun to Mr. Rittenhouse. He acknowledged on the stand that he was testifying for the prosecution in the hope of a lighter sentence on those charges.

Mr. Black testified that he kept Mr. Rittenhouse’s gun stored at his family home in Kenosha. When the unrest broke out in Kenosha, Mr. Black said, his stepfather took guns out of a safe in the garage and moved them into the house in case of a break-in. On the day of the shooting, before Mr. Black and Mr. Rittenhouse went downtown, Mr. Black saw his friend come upstairs with the rifle, Mr. Black testified.

Though Mr. Rittenhouse had not asked permission to take the gun along, Mr. Black said he did nothing to dissuade Mr. Rittenhouse from doing so when they went downtown, intending to help guard several used-car lots.

Julie Bosman

Thomas Binger, a prosecutor, has begun to question Kyle Rittenhouse, asking whether he intended to kill everyone he shot at that night.

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Rittenhouse Questioned on His Use of Deadly Force

Thomas Binger, a prosecutor, questioned Kyle Rittenhouse on his decision to use deadly force in shooting three men, two of whom he killed, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis.

“Everybody that you shot at that night, you intended to kill, correct?” “I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended it to — I intended to stop the people who were attacking me.” “By killing them.” “I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me.” “By killing them.” “Two of them passed away, but I stopped the threat from attacking me.” “By using deadly force.” “I used deadly force.” “That you knew was going to kill.” “I didn’t know if it was going to kill them, but I used the, I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.” “You intentionally used deadly force against Joseph Rosenbaum, correct?” “Yes.” “You intentionally used deadly force against the man who came and tried to kick you in the face.” “Yes.” “Correct? You intentionally use deadly force against Anthony Huber, correct?” “Yes.” “You intentionally used deadly force against Gaige Grosskreutz, correct?” “Yes.”

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Thomas Binger, a prosecutor, questioned Kyle Rittenhouse on his decision to use deadly force in shooting three men, two of whom he killed, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg
Julie Bosman

Throughout the trial, the prosecution has argued that Rittenhouse was recklessly inserting himself into a situation and eventually shot and killed two people who were unarmed, a point they have repeatedly emphasized.

Julie Bosman

Mark Richards, Rittenhouse’s defense lawyer, has sped through the events of Aug. 25 quickly, with about an hour of testimony from Rittenhouse about what happened on the night that he shot three people, killing two.

Kyle Rittenhouse described the moments just before he shot Joseph Rosenbaum. “A gunshot is fired from behind me, directly behind me,” he said on the stand. “And I take a few steps, and that’s when I turn around. And as I’m turning around, Mr. Rosenbaum is, I would say, from me to where the judge is, coming at me with his arms out in front of him. I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun.”

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Mr. Rosenbaum was the first man Mr. Rittenhouse fatally shot during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020. “I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun,” Mr. Rittenhouse told the court.
Julie Bosman

As Rittenhouse describes in detail his shooting of three people, the defense is trying to make the point that he was drawn unwittingly into a scene of chaos and confusion, but made logical decisions to shoot people who were pursuing him.

Julie Bosman

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” Kyle Rittenhouse tells the court.

Julie Bosman

As testimony resumes, the defense is confronting the fact that Kyle Rittenhouse, who was ostensibly in Kenosha as a volunteer medic, didn’t stop to assist Joseph Rosenbaum after shooting him. Rittenhouse says that he felt threatened by others in the crowd and was heading for the police instead.

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, points to an overhead view of part of downtown Kenosha as he testifies at his trial.Credit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg

When Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand at his homicide trial Wednesday, he told the court that he was not looking for trouble on Aug. 25, 2020, when he went to Kenosha, Wis., and shot three men.

Lawyers for Mr. Rittenhouse, who faces a possible life sentence if convicted on the most serious of the six charges against him, are arguing that he fired in self-defense.

Here are some key points from his testimony so far:

  • One of the first questions from Mark Richards, his lead defense lawyer, was whether Mr. Rittenhouse had gone to Kenosha “looking for trouble.” Mr. Rittenhouse said he had not.

  • Defense lawyers sought to counter the prosecution’s portrayal of Mr. Rittenhouse, who was living in Antioch, Ill., as an outsider who made an unreasonable decision to go to Kenosha armed with a semiautomatic rifle. Giving mostly brief answers to his lawyer’s friendly questions, Mr. Rittenhouse spoke of several of his relatives who live in Kenosha.

  • Mr. Rittenhouse testified that he and others went to Kenosha on the day of the shootings and worked to clean profane graffiti off a high school near the place where he would later shoot the three men. And he mentioned several instances when he said he rendered medical assistance to injured people.

  • Wearing a blue suit, he began his testimony speaking in a clear and confident tone. But he began to sob loudly as he described how he was “cornered” in a parking lot by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he shot and killed. Wendy Rittenhouse, his mother, began crying in the gallery of the courtroom, and the judge called a recess.

Julie Bosman

On the stand, Kyle Rittenhouse begins to sob loudly as he describes how he was “cornered” in a parking lot by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man that he shot and killed. Wendy Rittenhouse, his mother, is crying from the gallery. The judge calls a recess.

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Rittenhouse Sobs During Testimony

Kyle Rittenhouse cried as he described being “cornered” in a parking lot by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he shot and killed during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020.

Lawyer: “Did you get back? Were you able to go in a northerly direction?” “I wasn’t.” “Describe what happened.” “I — once I take that step back, I look over my shoulder and Mr. Rosenbaum, Mr Rosenbaum was now running from my right side. And I was cornered from, in front of me with Mr. Ziminski, and there were, there were people right there.” “Take a deep breath, Kyle.” “That’s what I — that’s where I — Judge: “We’re going to just take — it’s time for our break anyway. You can just relax for a minute, sir. We’re going to take a break. About 10 minutes, and please don’t talk about the case during the break.”

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Kyle Rittenhouse cried as he described being “cornered” in a parking lot by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he shot and killed during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020.
Julie Bosman

Mark Richards, Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyer, asks the defendant about his efforts as a volunteer medic on the night of Aug. 25, such as taping a sprained ankle and offering assistance to people who had been tear-gassed during protests after the Jacob Blake police shooting. The defense is attempting to establish an image of Rittenhouse as a helpful volunteer.

Julie Bosman

Kyle Rittenhouse, wearing a blue suit, is answering questions from his lawyer in a clear and confident tone, occasionally gesturing at a photo exhibit as he begins to describe for the jury the events of Aug. 25, 2020, when he shot three men, two of whom died.

Julie Bosman

Questioning has now turned to details about Rittenhouse’s encounter with Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person that he shot and killed. Rittenhouse tells the jury that Rosenbaum was carrying a chain, screaming, shouting racial epithets and threatening his life.

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Rittenhouse Takes the Stand in His Homicide Trial

Kyle Rittenhouse said he had been threatened by Joseph Rosenbaum prior to Mr. Rittenhouse shooting and killing him in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020. Mr. Rittenhouse is charged in the shooting of three men, two of whom died.

“During the evening, was there any friction between your group and protesters/rioters?” “No, the only type of stuff that happened was the person that attacked me first threatened to kill me twice.” “OK, and the person who threatened to kill you, we now know is Mr. Rosenbaum, correct?” “Yes.” “Before Aug. 25 of 2020, had you ever seen him before?” “I did not.” “Had you ever done anything to upset him?” “No.” “Now, you said he threatened to kill you twice.” “Yes.” “Describe the first time.” “The first time was me and Ryan Balch were a little bit north towards the north corner of 59th and Sheridan, and Mr. Rosenbaum was walking with a steel chain and he had a blue mask around his face, and he was just mad about something.”

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Kyle Rittenhouse said he had been threatened by Joseph Rosenbaum prior to Mr. Rittenhouse shooting and killing him in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020. Mr. Rittenhouse is charged in the shooting of three men, two of whom died.

Kyle Rittenhouse and his attorneys in the Kenosha County Courthouse on Monday.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Here is a rundown of the key figures in the courtroom for the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis.

Mr. Rittenhouse faces six charges — five felony counts and one misdemeanor — in connection with the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of a third during protests and unrest in Kenosha in August 2020. The most serious charge he faces, intentional homicide, carries a life sentence.

The Defendant

  • Kyle Rittenhouse was 17 in August 2020, and was living with his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, in an apartment in Antioch, Ill., a half-hour drive from Kenosha, where his father lives.

  • His social media posts indicated support for Blue Lives Matter and an ambition to work in law enforcement. He joined a cadet program for teenagers who want to be police officers.

  • On the evening of the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse was armed with a military-style semiautomatic rifle, and joined a group of armed people who said they were there to protect businesses.

The Judge

  • Bruce Schroeder, 75, is the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin, and is known for running a strict courtroom.

  • He graduated from Marquette Law School in 1970 and worked as a prosecutor before becoming a circuit judge in 1983.

  • Because self-defense is an issue at the trial, Judge Schroeder has ordered that the term “victim” cannot be used to refer to the people who were shot. They can be called “rioters” or “looters” only if it is established in court that they were rioting or looting, he has said.

The Prosecutor

  • The lead prosecutor is Thomas Binger, a Kenosha County assistant district attorney.

  • Mr. Binger has been a prosecutor in the county for seven years. Before that, he was a lawyer in private practice, and earlier in his career was an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County, according to an online résumé. He ran unsuccessfully for district attorney in neighboring Racine County in 2016.

  • He has clashed with Judge Schroeder several times during pretrial hearings in the Rittenhouse case.

The Defense

  • Mr. Rittenhouse’s lead lawyer is Mark Richards, 59, a veteran criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. He primarily represents people accused of violent crimes or drug crimes.

  • He joined Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense team in September 2020, and took charge of the defense in January 2021, replacing John Pierce.

  • Another lawyer on the defense team is Corey Chirafisi, a former prosecutor based in Madison, Wis.

The Jury

  • Twenty people — 11 women and nine menwere selected to hear the case, from a pool of about 150 prospective jurors.

  • Ultimately, 12 of the jurors will deliberate on a verdict.

Julie Bosman

Mark Richards, Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyer, starts by asking Rittenhouse about his ties to Kenosha. Rittenhouse lists several family members who live there, including his father. He has been accused of coming into a community that isn’t his and contributing to the tensions there.

Julie Bosman

Richards asks Rittenhouse what he was doing in Kenosha on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25, during the protests in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake police shooting. Rittenhouse describes how he and several others went downtown to clean graffiti.

A view of the Antioch Police Department in Kyle Rittenhouse’s home town, Antioch, Ill.Credit…Stephen Maturen/Reuters

Kyle Rittenhouse arrived in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, with at least one mission in mind: to play the role of police officer and medic, joining a group of other armed civilians roaming the city streets, offering medical attention to strangers and protecting buildings from rioters.

The night would end with Mr. Rittenhouse, then 17, engaging in violence himself, fatally shooting two men and wounding another. Hours later, he turned himself in to the police in Illinois, where he lived.

For much of his life, Mr. Rittenhouse had tried on identities infused with bravery and service, while exaggerating his accomplishments and eventually dropping out of high school.

He had idolized law enforcement since he was young, joining a cadet program for at-risk youths in his hometown, Antioch, Ill., and later decorating his social media pages with Blue Lives Matter images and praise for former President Donald J. Trump. At the time of the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse was employed part-time as a lifeguard at a recreational complex in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., which borders Kenosha.

Mr. Rittenhouse testified at his trial on Wednesday that he was studying nursing at Arizona State University.

Jay Thorne, a spokesman for the university, said in an email that Mr. Rittenhouse had enrolled in an online program that allows students to take classes before seeking admission to the university. The online program is not affiliated with the university’s nursing school or any other degree program, he said. The session in which Mr. Rittenhouse is enrolled began on Oct. 13.

His parents were divorced, and he lived with his mother, Wendy, in an apartment in Antioch, a small town in a rural area along the Wisconsin border. But he found a male role model in Dominick Black, the boyfriend of Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister McKenzie. The two young men became so close that they called each other brothers.

Mr. Black was perhaps Mr. Rittenhouse’s strongest tie to Kenosha, and a key enabler of the shootings in August 2020. Mr. Rittenhouse, who at 17 was too young to purchase a firearm legally in Wisconsin, paid Mr. Black to buy him a military-style semiautomatic rifle at an Ace Hardware store in Ladysmith, in rural northern Wisconsin.

The two met with other armed people on the night of the shootings to protect Car Source, a used-car business, where Mr. Rittenhouse carried his weapon and falsely told people in the crowd that he was a trained emergency medical technician.

After he was charged with six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, the most serious murder charge in Wisconsin, Mr. Rittenhouse and his family embraced far-right groups that came to his side, united in the message that the killings were acts of self-defense.

Julie Bosman

The jurors return to the courtroom, several clutching notebooks and pens, as Kyle Rittenhouse is sworn in to testify in his own defense.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Kyle Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, is in the courtroom and looking nervous, with one hand to her mouth, as her son takes the stand and is advised of his rights.

Julie Bosman

Kyle Rittenhouse is sitting on the witness stand while Judge Bruce Schroeder advises him of his rights as he prepares to testify in his own defense. The jury is out of the courtroom.

Julie Bosman

Rittenhouse is asked a series of questions by the judge, including whether his mind is clear and whether he is feeling all right. He answers, “Yes, your honor.”

Mitch Smith

Kyle Rittenhouse was sworn in before testifying at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Wednesday.Credit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg

Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two people and wounded a third during last year’s unrest in Kenosha, Wis., took the witness stand Wednesday morning, a decision that could prove pivotal to the outcome of the closely watched homicide trial.

The move is a risky legal calculation for the defense, which has centered its case on the argument that Mr. Rittenhouse was legally acting in self-defense when he opened fire.

Though Mr. Rittenhouse has said little publicly about his actions in August 2020, he has become a cause célèbre to some conservatives who see the case as a clear-cut instance of self-defense. In testifying, Mr. Rittenhouse, 18, will have the chance to speak directly to jurors about what he saw and felt on the night when he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber on the chaotic streets of Kenosha.

But by taking the stand, Mr. Rittenhouse also opens himself up to cross-examination from prosecutors, who will try to seize on any inconsistencies in his account and call into question the reasonableness of his actions. They may also try to introduce questions about his state of mind or his affiliations with different groups, which might not otherwise have been admissible. Prosecutors have argued that Mr. Rittenhouse, who was carrying a semiautomatic rifle and had traveled to Kenosha from Illinois, acted recklessly and without any legal justification.

The prosecution rested its case on Tuesday after several days of testimony that included moments that seemed helpful to their case, as well as others that appeared to burnish Mr. Rittenhouse’s claims of self-defense.

Julie Bosman

A memorial for Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, the two men killed by Mr. Rittenhouse.Credit…Chris Tuite/ImageSPACE/MediaPunch, via Associated Press

The overview

Kyle Rittenhouse is standing trial for the shootings of three men — two of whom died — in the immediate aftermath of demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020.

The demonstrations erupted after a Kenosha police officer had shot and wounded a Black man, Jacob Blake. The episode, captured on cellphone video, came at a time of protests across the country over the killing of George Floyd and police abuse of Black Americans.

Kenosha experienced widespread looting, arson and property destruction in the days after Mr. Blake was shot. The shootings by Mr. Rittenhouse, which he contends were committed in self-defense, occurred on the third night of protests in the city.

The charges

  • First-degree intentional homicide.

  • Attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

  • First-degree reckless homicide.

  • Reckless endangerment (two counts).

  • Carrying a firearm illegally as a minor.

The homicide charges, equivalent to what other states call murder charges, carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The defendant

Mr. Rittenhouse, now 18, was 17 when the shooting took place. He lived with his mother in Antioch, Ill., just over the border from Wisconsin. His father lived in Kenosha.

Mr. Rittenhouse had worked for a time as a lifeguard in Kenosha County, and kept a military-style semiautomatic rifle in Wisconsin, which the authorities said had been purchased for him by a friend.

Long before the shooting, Mr. Rittenhouse’s social media accounts were full of posts supporting the police and Blue Lives Matter. He had been a cadet in a program for young aspiring police officers.

Those who were shot

  • Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha. He was killed.

  • Anthony Huber, 26, who lived in Kenosha County. He was killed.

  • Gaige Grosskreutz, 26 at the time, a medic from West Allis, Wis. He was shot in the arm and survived.

The trial judge has reiterated a longstanding rule that, because the question of self-defense is at issue in the trial, the people who were shot cannot be referred to as “victims” in his courtroom.

The circumstances

On the evening of Aug. 25, demonstrators filled Civic Center Park in downtown Kenosha, across from a barricaded courthouse defended by police officers and National Guard troops. Also present were people dressed in camouflage and carrying rifles with ammunition strapped to their chests — legal for adults in Wisconsin, an open-carry state.

Some protesters threw fireworks and water bottles at police officers, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The crowd was eventually driven out of Civic Center Park and down Sheridan Road, a main thoroughfare. By late evening, most protesters had left the area, but some remained on Sheridan Road, occasionally scuffling and arguing with several dozen people who said they were there to defend the city.

What happened

Video taken that night showed that Mr. Rittenhouse, who had joined a group of armed people who said they were there to protect businesses, was milling around on Sheridan Road and offering medical assistance to protesters. Shortly before midnight, he was chased into the parking lot of a car dealership by Mr. Rosenbaum, who had joined the crowd downtown.

A man nearby fired a handgun into the air. Just as Mr. Rittenhouse turned toward the sound of the gunfire, Mr. Rosenbaum lunged at him. Mr. Rittenhouse fired four times, shooting Mr. Rosenbaum in the head, the video shows.

Mr. Rittenhouse then fled down Sheridan Road with at least a dozen members of the crowd in pursuit. One could be heard yelling, “That’s the shooter!”

Moments later, Mr. Rittenhouse tripped and fell, and then fired at two more people who were pursuing him, Mr. Huber and Mr. Grosskreutz.

As police vehicles arrived, Mr. Rittenhouse walked toward them with his arms raised, but they drove past him, trying to reach the people who had been shot.

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