A teenager who shot three people during a protest against racial injustice instigated the bloodshed and killed one of the victims with a bullet to the back, a trial has heard.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with killing two men and wounding a third with an assault-style rifle in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on 25 August last year.
His lawyer said the teenager had acted in self defence after one of the men tried to grab his gun and others kicked his face and hit him in the head with a skateboard.
The protests were sparked by the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer – just three months after George Floyd‘s murder.
Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, said he travelled from his Illinois home to protect property after rioters had set fires and vandalised businesses.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyer has suggested he will take the stand to explain his actions.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger told the court during opening statements that outsiders were drawn to Kenosha “like moths to a flame”, but stressed “the only person who killed anyone is the defendant”.
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He said self-defence would only be valid if Rittenhouse had reasonably believed he was acting to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm.
Mr Binger said it was clear Rittenhouse had instigated a confrontation that caused Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person who was shot that night, to start chasing him across a car park.
He said it was unclear exactly what was said, but that the 36-year-old had died from a shot to the back after throwing a plastic bag.
Defence lawyer Mark Richards argued it was Mr Rosenbaum who “lit the fuse that night” after trying to take Rittenhouse’s weapon to use against him.
He fired four shots in less than a second, said Mr Richards, and ran away without helping his victim because the crowd wanted “to kill him”.
Just moments later, he shot dead protester Anthony Huber, 26, who was seen on video hitting him with a skateboard.
Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, who had a gun in his hand as he stepped towards Rittenhouse, was also wounded in the mayhem.
The defence also disputed that Rittenhouse was drawn to Kenosha by a call on right-wing media and said he had strong ties to the city as his father lived there and Rittenhouse worked in the county as a lifeguard.
There was nothing wrong with the teenager offering to protect the used car dealership where the first shooting happened, said the prosecutor.
But he repeated that the defendant was the only person who killed anyone during the chaos.
“When we consider the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions, I ask you to keep this in mind,” said Mr Binger.
Rittenhouse’s supporters on the right have portrayed him as a patriot who stood up to lawlessness and used his second amendment rights.
For others, he’s a police wannabe and vigilante.
Rittenhouse and the people he shot are all white, but many activists say there’s a race element as the protesters were demonstrating over police violence against black people.