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Kyle Rittenhouse Trial: Prosecutors Say Rittenhouse Instigated Fatal Shootings In Kenosha, As Defense Outlines Self-Defense Claim

KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS) -- Opening statements began Tuesday morning in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Antioch teenager who shot three people, killing two, during last year's protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

There's no question Rittenhouse shot anyone during the unrest that broke out in August 2020 after a white Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back. However, jurors must decide whether Rittenhouse fired in self-defense, as his attorneys claim, or was acting as a a vigilante, as prosecutors argue.

"Out of the hundreds of people that came to Kenosha during that week, the hundreds of people that were out on the streets that week, the evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse," Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told the jury during his opening statement. "You are the people who will apply that standard of reasonableness to the defendant's behavior and make a determination as to whether or not deadly force was reasonable."

Prosecutors say the then-17-year-old Rittenhouse, who is white, left his home in Antioch, Illinois, and traveled to Kenosha after learning of a call to protect businesses after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by police seven times in the back on Aug. 23, 2020 and left paralyzed.

Kenosha Protests Shootings
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, looks over as his attorneys, Corey Chirafisi, center, and Mark Richards talk before the jury is let into the room for his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

In the first couple of nights after police shot Blake, there was large-scale unrest in Kenosha during which several buildings were set on fire.

Prosecutors accuse Rittenhouse of patrolling downtown Kenosha with an assault-style rifle on the third night of the unrest. Rittenhouse opened fire with that rifle during the protests, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz.

Kenosha Protests Shootings
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger presents opening statements to the jury during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Binger told jurors Rittenhouse started the events that led to the shootings, and evidence will show he ran away from the scene without helping after he shot Rosenbaum in the back.

Rittenhouse, dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, yawned several times during the prosecution's opening statement, occasionally fidgeting with a water bottle, and glancing towards the jury.

During his opening statement, defense attorney Mark Richards said Rosenbaum threatened to kill Rittenhouse, and lunged for his gun, prompting Rittenhouse to shoot.

Richards also showed jurors photos and videos showing Huber hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard and trying to disarm him, and Grosskreutz pulling out a gun.

Richards claimed Rittenhouse was only protecting himself, and making sure someone else couldn't take his gun to use against him or others.

"He said from day one what he did. He made no bones about it. He acted in self-defense," Richards said.

The trial's first witness was Dominick Black, a friend of Rittenhouse's who bought the rifle used in the shootings months earlier, because the teen was not old enough to own one himself.

Black testified that he and Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha to help watch over a car dealership to prevent property damage during the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Black told the jury he was on the roof of the car dealer at the time of the shootings, and he heard the gunfire, but didn't know Rittenhouse was involved until RIttenhouse called and said he had just killed someone. Black said Rittenhouse was pale, sweaty, and said he had to do it to protect himself, because "people were trying to hurt him."

Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder, who is presiding over the trial, has seated 20 jurors – 12 primary jurors and eight alternates. He points out that it is a higher number than normal, but the judge is taking into account the length of the trial - which is slated for two weeks. The pool interviewed in the voir dire process Monday was mostly white and older in age.

Judge Schroeder will allow Rittenhouse's legal team to put on a full defense.

Schroeder has already ruled that prosecutors cannot refer to the three people Rittenhouse shot as "victims." On the other hand, he also ruled that the defense may refer to them as "arsonists," "looters," or "rioters" if they can prove they participated in those activities.

While some see Rittenhouse as a vigilante who took the law into his own hands on a chaotic night of turmoil, others see him as a patriot who was protecting himself and the community.

Schroeder has said Rittenhouse's trial is expected to last two to three weeks.



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