Detective: Rittenhouse shouted ‘Friendly!’ to pursuer
Note to listeners: this story contains the sounds of gunshots.
The prosecution continues to make its case against Kyle Rittenhouse in his homicide trial this week in Kenosha. The 18-year-old from Illinois is claiming self-defense for the fatal shooting of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, during protests on August 25, 2020. The demonstrations were in reaction to the police wounding of a Black man, Jacob Blake, Jr. two days earlier.
Kyle Rittenhouse shouted “Friendly! Friendly! Friendly!” as he was being chased by a man he eventually shot to death during street protests against racial injustice, a police detective testified — in a confrontation the defense portrayed as “the classic ambush.”
Video took center stage Wednesday in the Illinois man’s trial in the shootings of three men — two fatally — after Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha in August 2020 with a medical kit and a rifle in what he says was an effort to safeguard property from damaging riots.
Jurors peered at infrared video made by an FBI surveillance plane from almost 9,000 feet above the spot where Rittenhouse shot 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum. With colored circles superimposed on the video identifying the movements of the two men far below, Kenosha Police Detective Martin Howard agreed with defense attorney Mark Richards that Rittenhouse had repeatedly shouted “Friendly!” as he was being chased — and that Rosenbaum appeared to be gaining ground on Rittenhouse.
Richards also described how Rosenbaum had come out from behind a car to meet Rittenhouse before the shooting, saying to the detective: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but this looks like the classic ambush.”
After prosecutors objected, Richards said: “Mr. Rosenbaum is in hiding as my client arrives, correct?”
“It appears so, yes,” Howard responded.
Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted in the politically polarizing case that has stirred furious debate over self-defense, vigilantism, the right to bear arms and the racial unrest that erupted around the U.S. after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases like it.
The young man traveled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois after violent protests broke out over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer. Rittenhouse said he went there to protect property after two nights in which rioters set fires and ransacked businesses.
Prosecutors have portrayed him as the instigator of the bloodshed, while his lawyer argued that he acted in self-defense after Rosenbaum tried to grab his gun and others in the crowd kicked him in the face and hit him in the head with a skateboard.
On Wednesday, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger showed the jury several videos of the shootings taken by independent journalists and social media bloggers. In one video, Rittenhouse is seen and heard firing on Rosenbaum, the first man he shot and killed.
While Binger was playing the videos, he put Kenosha Police Detective Martin Howard on the witness stand. Howard led the investigation of the shootings and gathered videos of that night from the internet and directly from the journalists. Binger asked the detective if Rosenbaum was armed.
In one video, footage shows a man — Rosenbaum — chasing Rittenhouse and throwing a plastic bag at him just before the man was gunned down. Someone is heard yelling “F--- you!,” followed by the sounds of the four shots Rittenhouse fired, though the shooting itself is not clearly seen on camera.
“Oh, he shot him! He shot him, man. He shot him. He shot him, man. He laid him out,” the person making the video can be heard saying.
Footage shown to the jury also depicted Rosenbaum lying on the ground as frantic bystanders surrounded him to help. He had a wound to his head, and a bystander placed a shirt on it to apply pressure.
In the courtroom, Rittenhouse — seated in the jurors’ line of sight — kept his eyes fixed on a desktop screen and showed no emotion as video depicted him walking down a street with his rifle and shooting at protesters, people scattering and screaming.
Many of the videos played in court were found by police on social media sites, where lots of footage was streamed live or promptly posted after the bloodshed, and many of the scenes were familiar to those following the case.
Howard, the detective, detailed injuries Rittenhouse suffered that night, all seemingly minor: A half-inch scratch above his eyebrow, a small cut inside his lower lip, a 2-inch scratch below his collarbone, a 2-inch scratch on his forearm, a scratch on his back and two bumps the size of pennies on his head.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger drove home the point that Rosenbaum was apparently unarmed, asking Howard if any of the videos shown in court indicated Rosenbaum had a weapon of any kind. Howard replied no.
"At any point in those videos is there any indication Mr. Rosenbaum had any weapon of any kind?” Binger asked.
"I can only see a plastic bag that he's carrying,” Howard said.
“So no gun?" Binger asked.
“No,” replied Howard, who repeated the answer when Binger also asked him whether Rosenbaum carried a knife, bat or club.
Binger also asked Howard how many times Rittenhouse fired his rifle at what Rittenhouse said were his attackers, including a man who has not been identified and was apparently not hit by a bullet.
"Eight times,” Howard said.
"I believe the testimony thus far is four of those rounds were discharged and struck Mr. Rosenbaum. Is that correct?” Binger said.
“Correct,” Howard said.
“The fifth and sixth times that he shot were at this individual with the white pants, is that correct?” Binger asked. “The seventh shot is fired at Anthony Huber and the eighth round is at Mr. Grosskreutz's right arm?”
"Correct," Howard responded.
Rittenhouse defense lawyer Mark Richards began his cross-examination of detective Martin Howard by noting it was not a typical investigation of a homicide scene.
"Routinely you go out and freeze a crime scene and you get as much evidence. You take time, you photograph things, and you get it all, so that it's all preserved is the right word, correct?” Richards asked.
“In this case, because of the chaos on the night of the 25th into the morning of the 26th, that wasn't able to be done, fair statement?”
“Not to the degree we typically do, correct,” Howard responded.
Again, Richards drove against that on cross-examination, asking Howard what can happen if a weapon is taken from someone.
“It can be used against them as a deadly and dangerous weapon, correct?” Richards asked.
“Correct,” Howard replied.
It's expected that cross-examination of the detective continues on Thursday.
Jurors set their notepads aside and kept their eyes glued to the courtroom monitors at various points in the videos, most capturing the chaos of the violence and some showing graphic images of Rosenbaum after he was shot.
Moments after shooting the 36-year-old Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, a protester from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, who was seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard.
Rittenhouse then wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, a protester from West Allis, Wisconsin, who had a gun in his hand as he stepped toward Rittenhouse.