- Kyle Rittenhouse will stand trial next month in the shooting of three protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
- A use-of-force expert testified Tuesday on whether Rittenhouse reasonably perceived a threat to his life.
- The judge hasn’t yet ruled whether the expert’s testimony will be heard by a jury at trial.
An expert in police use-of-force cases gave testimony at a pre-trial hearing Tuesday for Kyle Rittenhouse, offering a glimpse into the defense team’s strategy for the 18-year-old accused of killing two protesters and wounding another during civil unrest last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The expert, John Black, testified about video footage from the night of August 25, 2020, offering a moment-by-moment breakdown of Rittenhouse’s actions and surroundings, and explaining factors he said may have led the teenager to fear for his life. Black said his areas of expertise included weapons handling, reaction times, and split-second decision-making.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, is charged with fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, and being a minor in possession of a dangerous weapon. The shootings occurred in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, which prompted three nights of protests and destruction in downtown Kenosha.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all charges and maintained that he shot Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz in self-defense as they chased him. His trial is set to begin in November.
Black said the first shooting that night occurred after Rosenbaum, 36, began pursuing Rittenhouse into the lot of a car dealership, cornering the teenager amid parked cars.
“Mr. Rosenbaum threw something, continued to move forward, continued to close the gap,” Black said, noting that Rosenbaum pursued Rittenhouse despite the teenager visibly carrying a rifle. “As they close the distance, [Rosenbaum’s] hands are coming out, he is reaching in the direction of, and appears to be within just a moment of making contact with a weapon.”
Black said it was entirely possible that Rosenbaum simply meant to wrestle Rittenhouse’s rifle away from him and throw it away safely — but that it was also possible Rosenbaum meant to take the gun and use it against Rittenhouse.
Since Rittenhouse couldn’t have known Rosenbaum’s true intentions, Black said it was reasonable for Rittenhouse to perceive that Rosenbaum posed a deadly threat.
As for Huber, Black noted that the 26-year-old had struck Rittenhouse with a skateboard and “stayed engaged” with the teenager afterward. Black said Huber could be seen reaching down at one point, potentially for Rittenhouse’s gun.
The expert said it was impossible to discern Huber’s intentions — just as it was for Rosenbaum’s — but it was reasonable for Rittenhouse to perceive a threat that Huber could take his gun and use it against him.
Black went on to describe footage showing Grosskreutz, 26, wielding a handgun and approaching Rittenhouse just after Rittenhouse had shot Huber.
“Arguably, Mr. Grosskreutz heard, knew, or saw indicators that Mr. Rittenhouse had fired his weapon,” Black said. “Mr. Huber leaves, disengages, and yet Mr. Grosskreutz continues to go forward.”
Grosskreutz could be seen recoiling and then moving forward again to potentially re-engage with Rittenhouse — all factors that could have led the teenager to perceive a deadly threat, Black said.
“A citizen in that position, given those indicators — would it be reasonable to believe they were about to be assaulted? I would argue yes,” Black said. “That is one of many reasonable perceptions in that situation.”
Tuesday’s hearing was intended to resolve several disputes between defense attorneys and prosecutors over what evidence can be shown at trial.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys said Black’s testimony would give jurors a greater understanding of the dangers Rittenhouse perceived that night, while prosecutors argued that Black’s expertise would be unnecessary, since jurors don’t need an expert to tell them “what a reasonable person would’ve done in Mr. Rittenhouse’s situation.”
Judge Bruce Schroeder said he’d issue a ruling by the end of the month on whether Black can testify at trial. Schroeder also denied a motion from Rittenhouse’s defense team to toss the weapons charge, though he said he may reconsider it later.