The only protester shot by Kyle Rittenhouse to survive testified on Monday that he believed the US teenager was an "active shooter" and was trying to disarm Rittenhouse when a bullet from the teen's semi-automatic rifle severed part of his arm.
Rittenhouse, 18, has been charged in the deaths of two men and with attempting to kill Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, during racial justice protests on August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot and wounded a Black man, Jacob Blake.
Grosskreutz, a former paramedic, was carrying a Glock pistol and a medical kit that night. He said he followed Rittenhouse because he had heard gunshots and saw protesters chasing him. He thought he might need to provide medical aid.
"I thought that the defendant was an active shooter," Grosskreutz, 27, told the jury.
Grosskreutz's testimony was seen as critical as the trial entered its second week. He represents the only chance for lawyers from both sides to question a survivor and elicit testimony on his mindset and actions, which is crucial to determining whether Rittenhouse had reason to fear for his life.
Last week, multiple witnesses provided testimony that seemed to support the teen's claim of self-defense.
Rittenhouse's lawyers sought to portray Grosskreutz as dishonest, noting that he had omitted being armed in his initial police interview.
Under questioning, he acknowledged he was pointing his pistol in Rittenhouse's general direction when the teenager fired. Grosskreutz said he never intended to use his pistol.
Grosskreutz said he exchanged a few words with Rittenhouse when the teen passed him in the street after hearing gunfire. He did not know at the time that Rittenhouse had just fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, a few blocks away.
As protesters pursued Rittenhouse, some shouting things like "Get his ass!," the teen stumbled to the ground and fired at an unidentified male who kicked him. He then shot Anthony Huber, 26, who swung a skateboard at him. Rittenhouse has been charged with killing Huber and Rosenbaum and attempting to kill Grosskreutz. He has pleaded not guilty and is expected to testify he acted in self-defense.
Grosskreutz, who was approaching the teen, froze after Huber was shot, took a step back and raised his hands above his head while still holding his pistol, according to video evidence and a criminal complaint filed days after the shootings last year.
Grosskreutz said on Monday that while he had his hands in the air he believed Rittenhouse had "re-racked" his rifle, effectively loading another round into the chamber so the gun was ready to fire. Grosskreutz said he interpreted that to mean the "defendant wasn’t accepting my surrender."
"At that moment I felt that I had to do something to try and prevent myself from being killed or shot," Grosskreutz said, adding that he was thinking of trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse or to detain him.
Under cross-examination, Rittenhouse's attorney sought to establish that Grosskreutz had pursued the teen with intent to harm him - an assertion Grosskreutz denied. The attorney also pressed Grosskreutz on why he did not tell police in an interview right after the shooting that he was armed.
"You omitted the fact that you ran up on him and had a Glock pistol in your hand," Corey Chirafisi said.
"Correct," Grosskreutz responded.
Grosskreutz said he was on medication and dealing with trauma of just having been shot and the omission to the police was not purposeful.
Chirafisi showed a photo around the time Rittenhouse fired to try to portray Grosskreutz as a threat, saying the teen did not fire when Grosskreutz's hands were up and only did so when he dropped his hands and moved toward Rittenhouse.
"You agree your firearm is pointing at Mr. Rittenhouse, correct?" Chirafisi asked.
"Yes," Grosskreutz responded.
"And once your firearm is pointed at Mr. Rittenhouse that’s when he fires, yes?," Chirafisi asked.
"No," Grosskreutz said.
Commenting on the still image, Grosskreutz then said, "That looks like my bicep being vaporized."
A video shown to the jury of a newly wounded Grosskreutz with a chunk of his bicep missing further drove home the violence of the night. Several jurors appeared to grimace and avert their eyes from the screen.