Rittenhouse is set to stand trial beginning Nov. 1 on multiple counts, including homicide. The 18-year-old argues he opened fire in self-defense after men attacked him during a riot following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Prosecutors say they have infrared video from an FBI surveillance plane that shows Rittenhouse followed and confronted the first man he shot.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he traveled from his home in Antioch, Illinois, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) to Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, in response to a call on social media to protect businesses there.
Rittenhouse then shot Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz, killing Rosenbaum and Huber and wounding Grosskreutz.
During a hearing Friday on several motions, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger asked to argue at trial that Rittenhouse subscribes to the far-right group, the Proud Boys, and its philosophies. Binger pointed out that Rittenhouse was seen at a bar with members of the group’s Wisconsin chapter in January and traveled to Miami days later to meet the group’s national president.
Binger also asked the judge to allow evidence that Rittenhouse attacked a woman in June 2020 as she was fighting his sister. He also wants to show jurors video from 15 days before the shootings in which Rittenhouse said he would like to shoot some men he thought were shoplifting from a pharmacy.
Rittenhouse attorney Corey Chirafisi countered that none of the events are relevant to the shootings. Nothing shows Rittenhouse was connected to the Proud Boys on the night of the protest or that the shootings were racially motivated, Chirafisi said, pointing out that Rittenhouse and the men he shot were white.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder agreed with the defense about the June fight and interactions Rittenhouse has had with the Proud Boys. He deferred a decision on the pharmacy video but said he was inclined to exclude it.
It was during discussion about that video that Binger said prosecutors have infrared surveillance footage that he said shows Rittenhouse chasing Rosenbaum, who was the first person Rittenhouse shot.
Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards maintained it was Rosenbaum who started chasing Rittenhouse, yelling out, “Kill him!” He said Rosenbaum cornered Rittenhouse in front of a row of cars in a parking lot and threw a bag at him before trying to grab Rittenhouse’s gun.
Binger said the surveillance footage shows Rittenhouse chasing Rosenbaum with a fire extinguisher before Rosenbaum turned to confront him. Binger said Rosenbaum was probably trying to push the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle away.
After Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, people in the streets began chasing him. Video from the night of the protests shows Rittenhouse shot Huber after Huber hit him with a skateboard and tried to grab his gun. Grosskreutz then approached Rittenhouse with a gun and Rittenhouse shot him.
Schroeder denied a defense request to argue that Rosenbaum was trying to steal Rittenhouse’s rifle because Rosenbaum was a sex offender and couldn’t legally possess a firearm.
He delayed ruling on defense requests to dismiss a charge that Rittenhouse possessed his gun illegally because he was a minor and to allow testimony from an expert on police use-of-force. He set another hearing for Oct. 5.
Rittenhouse has found support from many across the country, who have raised $2 million to cover his bail, and former President Donald Trump even suggested last year that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
“He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like,” Trump said during a news conference in August. “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”
Rittenhouse’s mother also slammed President Biden in November over a presidential campaign ad that used Rittenhouse’s image “to get votes.”
“How dare him [Biden] … do that to my son,” Wendy Rittenhouse told host Tucker Carlson in November. “That’s my son that he did that to. And I’m not going to back down from him — and [Kyle] is not a White supremacist. He’s not a racist. He is my son and I know him and he is none of that what Joe Biden said.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.