A self-defense claim such as that made by Kyle Rittenhouse may hinge on the question of how reasonable the respondent was in the circumstances.
On the night of 25 August 2020, when Mr. Rittenhouse shot and killed three people, two of them deadly, he was with others who, like him, said they took to the streets to protect the business premises.
Prosecutors used the testimony of several of these armed men to emphasize how many of them went to Kenosha during this turbulent time and did not shoot anyone, while the defense argued that none of these men faced the danger that Mr. Mr. Rittenhouse. Here is what five of them told the court.
Mr. Black, now 20, dated Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister and became so close to Mr. Rittenhouse a year before the shooting that they called each other brothers, Mr. Black said. He was charged with providing Mr. Rittenhouse with a semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting, and said at the stand that he had testified in favor of the prosecution in the hope of a milder sentence.
Mr. Black and Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, sailed into the city center together on August 25, carrying their nearly identical military-grade semi-automatic rifles. Prosecutors stressed that Mr Black stayed on the rooftop in one of the used car parks they guarded because he thought it would be safer there than at street level where Mr Rittenhouse was.
An army veteran in his 30s who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Balch testified that he arrived in Kenosha with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle, of which he had fired 10,000 to 15,000 times before.
Mr. Balch walked with Mr. Rittenhouse down the street on 25 August and testified that he was watching Mr. Rittenhouse, who, in his opinion, was “under-equipped and inexperienced.”
On the stand, Mr. Balch described the first person to be shot by Rittenhouse, 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, as “hyperaggressive” hours before the shooting. Mr. Balch testified that that night he heard Mr. Rosenbaum threatening to kill him, Mr. Rittenhouse and others, but did not see Mr. Rosenbaum harm anyone.
A Marine Corps veteran who lives in Green Bay and knows Mr Balch, Mr Lackowski. confirmed Mr Balch’s testimony that Mr Rosenbaum was militant, stating that Mr Rosenbaum had encouraged people to shoot him several hours before he was killed.
Mr Lackowski testified, however, that he did not view Mr Rosenbaum as a threat. “I turned my back on him and ignored him,” Mr. Lackowski said at the stand.
Immediately after the shooting, Mr Lackowski helped place a tourniquet on the gravely wounded arm of one of the men shot by Mr Rittenhouse: Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived the episode and also testified in court.
Fiedler, 56, who lives north of Milwaukee, was armed with a .380 caliber pistol and joined others guarding used car parks. She said she hoped her gun would serve as a “deterrent.”
Like others, she testified that Mr. Rosenbaum had threatened people in the pre-shooting period, but she also supported the testimony of witnesses who said they did not consider him a serious threat to their safety.
Mr Smith, 23, of Kenosha testified that he had worked in used car parks in the past and that the owners had asked him to put together a team of people to guard the sites – a team that included Mr Rittenhouse, Mr. Black and others.
Mr Smith said that Mr Rittenhouse had lent him a bulletproof vest and that Mr Smith had a pepper spray and a pepper spray gun. According to him, when the police pushed the demonstrators to the car parks, Mr. Balch handed him a pistol.