Rittenhouse provoked shootings: prosecutor

·3-min read

The prosecution at the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has accused the teenager of provoking the "entire incident" that led to him shooting three men during volatile protests over race and policing in Wisconsin last year.

Kicking off the prosecution's closing arguments on Monday, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told the jury to ignore Rittenhouse's argument that he was attacked and fired his semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle in self-defence, killing two men and wounding a third

Instead, Binger said, Rittenhouse instigated the fatal clashes by brandishing his weapon.

Binger tried to demonstrate this by raising the gun in front of the jury.

"That is what provokes this entire incident," he said.

"If you are the one who is threatening others you lose the right to self-defence," the prosecutor said.

The defence will follow with its final address to the jury and is expected to highlight the considerable evidence presented at trial supporting Rittenhouse's argument that he was attacked.

Multiple witnesses have testified that Joseph Rosenbaum, one of two men Rittenhouse fatally shot, had charged and lunged at the teenager. But by arguing that Rittenhouse was the aggressor, Binger sought to raise the bar for the claim that he acted in self-defence.

The trial is the most closely watched case involving a civilian's right to self-defence since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, in 2013.

Like Zimmerman, Rittenhouse has emerged as a divisive figure, viewed as heroic by some conservatives who favour expansive gun rights and as a symbol of an out-of-control American gun culture by many on the left.

Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with killing Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 28, on August 25, 2020.

The shootings took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests - marred by arson, rioting and looting - that followed the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, who was left paralysed from the waist down.

Rittenhouse, who has pleaded not guilty and testified last week that he acted in self-defence, faces life in prison if convicted.

He was 17 at the time of the shootings.

After the defence presents its closing arguments, the jury will begin deliberations and attempt to form a consensus on guilt or innocence.

In his testimony the teen, at times losing his composure and crying, said he did not want to kill anyone that night.

For the prosecution, Binger said Rittenhouse had gone out of his way to travel to Kenosha from Antioch, Illinois, during the protests, one of a series of demonstrations in 2020 against racism and police use of force.

"This isn't a situation where he was protecting his home or his family," Binger said.

In an effort to argue that Rittenhouse acted recklessly, Binger talked at length about the powerful nature of an AR-15 and the ammunition it was loaded with: full metal jacket bullets designed to penetrate their target.

He called Rittenhouse a "fraud" for claiming that he was there as a medic to provide first aid.

"This AR-15 is completely incompatible with the role of a medic," Binger said

Under Wisconsin law, a person who has provoked a confrontation must exhaust all other options before resorting to deadly force, and Binger told the jury that Rittenhouse could have continued to run away from Rosenbaum.

Binger also said that Huber, a protester who was shot after striking Rittenhouse with his skateboard, was trying to disarm the teenager.

Earlier on Monday, the trial judge dismissed a misdemeanour charge against Rittenhouse for illegally possessing the AR-15-style rifle he used in the shootings.

Judge Bruce Schroeder sided with the defence argument that there were exceptions in the law that appeared to allow for Rittenhouse to possess the semi-automatic rifle.

While a misdemeanour charge, its dismissal carries symbolic significance for a case that has captured the attention of the public in part because it involved a teenager roaming the streets with a semi-automatic rifle who was not immediately brought into custody by the police in Kenosha.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting