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Gaige Grosskreutz says he feared for his life, pointed gun at Kyle Rittenhouse before getting shot

Kenosha, Wis., shooting victim Gaige Grosskreutz testified on Nov. 9 that he pointed a gun at Kyle Rittenhouse before getting shot. (Video: Reuters)
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KENOSHA, Wis. — When Gaige Grosskreutz encountered Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha last year, the city was riven by chaotic unrest after a police shooting. Its streets were filled with demonstrators, law enforcement officials and throngs of armed civilians who traveled there from out of town, including these two young men.

Their paths crossed briefly in August 2020, ending in a moment of bloodshed: Rittenhouse firing a shot into Grosskreutz’s arm, pulverizing his right biceps, inches from where his right hand still clutched a Glock pistol.

Exactly what happened in the moments leading up to that shot was dissected in a Kenosha courtroom Monday as Rittenhouse’s trial entered its second week. The 18-year-old is charged with homicide for fatally shooting two people amid the unrest last year and attempted homicide for injuring Grosskreutz. He has pleaded not guilty.

Friend who bought Kyle Rittenhouse his gun testifies that the teen was ‘freaking out’ after Kenosha shootings

In his testimony, Grosskreutz acknowledged confronting Rittenhouse with a gun in one hand but denied he ever intended to shoot him. Grosskreutz said that ran counter to his work as a former paramedic and someone who provided medical aid at demonstrations throughout the summer of 2020. But Grosskreutz admitted that he pointed his gun at the teenager, saying Rittenhouse opened fire only once he approached with his gun aimed.

Grosskreutz’s testimony gave jurors a chance to hear from the only survivor of Rittenhouse’s gunfire, a unique vantage point in the polarizing, high-profile case. Prosecutors have depicted Rittenhouse as an aggressive vigilante who escalated the situation, while his attorneys argue that he acted in self-defense and was “attacked … in the streets like an animal.”

The dueling narratives played out again Monday as the prosecution and defense questioned Grosskreutz, a 27-year-old from Milwaukee.

His testimony illustrated the different paths many people took to Kenosha’s streets last year after a White police officer there shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in the back. Prosecutors later declined to charge the officer, saying Blake had an open knife and was resisting police, but the shooting set off protests and then rioting.

Grosskreutz, then 26, said he was live-streaming the unrest online on Aug. 25, 2020, as a legal observer for the American Civil Liberties Union. Rittenhouse, then 17, had traveled to Kenosha that day from his home in Antioch, Ill., about 20 miles away. He obtained a rifle purchased by a friend and went to Kenosha, one of his attorneys said, to help defend the community.

During frenzied confrontations on Kenosha's streets, Rittenhouse shot and killed 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and 26-year-old Anthony Huber before wounding Grosskreutz.

Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial begins, pitting claims of self-defense against accusations of vigilantism

Exactly what happened leading up to each shooting has been scrutinized in court, aided by a steady stream of sometimes bloody footage displayed for jurors.

At one point, Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse down a street and threw a plastic bag at him; Rosenbaum also tried to grab the teen’s rifle. Rittenhouse then shot him. Others then followed Rittenhouse, including Grosskreutz and Huber, who swung his skateboard at the teenager before Rittenhouse shot him in the chest. Huber’s father has said Huber was trying to stop “an active shooter [who] tried to flee.”

In his testimony, Grosskreutz recounted how he had operated a mobile first aid station throughout the summer of 2020 at racial justice demonstrations that swept the country after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. On the night he encountered Rittenhouse, Grosskreutz said, he had been serving as a medic for protesters in Kenosha as well as live-streaming what was happening.

Grosskreutz said he was carrying medical supplies in a backpack as well as a loaded Glock pistol, describing that as a typical combination for him while attending protests.

“I believe in the Second Amendment,” he said on the stand. “That night was no different than any other day. It’s keys, phone, wallet, gun.”

With his questioning of Grosskreutz, Thomas Binger, a Kenosha assistant district attorney, painted him as a sort of mirror to Rittenhouse: An outsider who arrived in Kenosha armed and carrying medical supplies, albeit one who was older and had experience working as a paramedic. Before crossing paths with Rittenhouse, Grosskreutz said, he had treated about 10 people.

A Washington Post examination of video and police records, along with other documents, sheds new light on the mindsets of the two people principally involved. (Video: Robert O'Harrow , Joyce Lee, Elyse Samuels/TWP)

In his testimony Monday, Grosskreutz said he feared for his life while confronting Rittenhouse. Grosskreutz described following him, holding a cellphone in one hand and his pistol in the other, and said he held both hands up in a sign of surrender. But, Grosskreutz said, Rittenhouse did not appear to accept it, so he decided to charge the teenager and “close the distance.”

Asked why he had not fired at Rittenhouse, even though he knew the teenager had shot people, Grosskreutz grew emotional.

“That was never something I was trying to do,” Grosskreutz said, choking back tears. “At that moment I was trying to preserve my own life. Trying to take the life of another is not … that’s not why I was out there.”

Grosskreutz, wearing a gray suit and tie, spoke mostly to jurors, as Rittenhouse sat at the defense table in a navy blue suit, sometimes appearing to take notes and looking on stone-faced.

Corey Chirafisi, one of Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys, raised questions about Grosskreutz’s credibility, getting him to acknowledge on the stand that he told police he dropped his gun before getting shot.

Jury seated in Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial, setting stage for high-profile case

During his testimony, graphic imagery was displayed for jurors, showing Grosskreutz’s biceps blasted apart and bloodied. At one point, Grosskreutz was shown a photo capturing the moment he was shot — an image showing his right biceps being “vaporized,” he said. Grosskreutz acknowledged under questioning that he was pointing his gun at Rittenhouse at that moment.

“When you were standing three to five feet from him with your arms up in the air, he never fired, right?” Chirafisi asked.

“Correct,” Grosskreutz said.

“It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him with your gun, now your hands down, pointed at him, that he fired, right?” Chirafisi said.

“Correct,” Grosskreutz said.

Grosskreutz also agreed with Chirafisi that while he did not verbally threaten the teenager, a person could threaten another wordlessly, including by pursuing them down a street with a loaded gun.

Last month, Grosskreutz filed a lawsuit against Kenosha authorities, alleging that the shootings that left Rosenbaum and Huber dead and him wounded were “a natural consequence of the actions” of the police department and sheriff’s office. Chirafisi highlighted this lawsuit Monday while questioning Grosskreutz, suggesting that his odds of succeeding in the civil suit would improve if Rittenhouse were convicted.

Chirafisi also quoted a tweet by a former roommate of Grosskreutz’s that claimed he said that he regretted not killing Rittenhouse. Grosskreutz denied making the comment. The former roommate is expected to testify on Tuesday.

The trial began with jury selection last week, during which 150 possible jurors were summoned and then pared down to 20 people, a dozen of whom would wind up deciding the case. Since then, one juror has been dismissed for making a joke about the Blake shooting and another for a pregnancy issue. The judge has said the trial is likely to end early next week.

Berman reported from Washington.

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