KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — The first man killed by Kyle Rittenhouse on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot at a range of just a few feet and had soot injuries that could indicate his hand was over the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle, a pathologist testified Tuesday.
But it was unclear from video footage whether Joseph Rosenbaum was reaching for Rittenhouse’s gun on Aug. 25, 2020, or trying to swat it away, said the witness, Dr. Doug Kelley, a forensic pathologist with the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s office.
Prosecutors rested their murder case after 5 1/2 days of testimony aimed at portraying Rittenhouse as the aggressor but often bolstered the young man’s claim of self-defense. His lawyers have suggested the 17-year-old feared his gun would be taken away and used against him.
Witnesses described him as pale, shaking, sweating and stammering after the shootings.
“He repeats, ‘I just shot someone’ over and over, and I believe at some point he said he had to shoot someone,” testified Nicholas Smith.
“My god, my life might be over,” another witness, JoAnn Fiedler, recalled Rittenhouse saying. She said he told her he “had to do it.”
Rittenhouse, now 18, killed two men and wounded a third during a night of turbulent demonstrations against racial injustice in Kenosha in the summer of 2020.
Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him.
The former police youth cadet from Antioch, Illinois, had gone to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle and a medical kit in what he said was an effort to protect property from the damaging protests that broke out over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha police officer.
While Rittenhouse is white, as were those he shot, the case has stirred racially charged debate over vigilantism, the right to bear arms, and the unrest that erupted around the United States that summer over the killing of George Floyd and other police violence against Black people.
Last week, witnesses testified that Rosenbaum, 36, was “hyperaggressive” and “acting belligerently,” even threattening to kill Rittenhouse at one point.
Wisconsin’s self-defense law allows someone to use deadly force only if “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”
The jury must decide whether Rittenhouse believed he was in such peril and whether that belief was reasonable under the circumstances.
On Tuesday, Rittenhouse averted his eyes and breathed deeply as prosecutors displayed autopsy photos of Rosenbaum showing his injuries. A few jurors also seemed to find it difficult to look for long at the images.