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KENOSHA, Wis., Nov 4 (Reuters) - A critical witness in the murder trial of U.S. teenager Kyle Rittenhouse said on Thursday that one of the three men shot during protests in Wisconsin last year cursed and lunged for the defendant's military-style rifle before he fired.
The testimony from Richie McGinniss, a journalist who was recording video in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020, when the shootings took place, could bolster the defense's argument that Rittenhouse, then 17, feared for his life.
Rittenhouse, 18, a resident of Antioch, Illinois, is charged with reckless and intentional homicides in the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and attempted homicide for wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27, with a bullet to the arm.
McGinniss - chief video director of the Daily Caller, a conservative website - said Rosenbaum yelled: "Fuck you!" as he advanced toward Rittenhouse in the parking lot of a used car dealership and then lunged for the youth's semi-automatic rifle.
McGinniss, who re-enacted the scene, crouching and lunging forward with both arms from the stand, said it appeared that Rosenbaum "was grabbing for the front portion" of Rittenhouse's weapon before the teen shot him four times.
McGinniss has been seen as a crucial witness because he was close by when Rittenhouse turned and shot Rosenbaum. That violent encounter stirred up the crowd, setting the stage for the shootings of Huber and Grosskreutz minutes later.
As Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger played a video of Rosenbaum lying wounded on the ground, motionless and groaning loudly, McGinniss appeared to struggle to maintain his composure, breathing rapidly and averting his eyes from the monitor. McGinnis escorted Rosenbaum to the hospital where he was confirmed dead.
When McGinnis testified that Rittenhouse was able to initially dodge Rosenbaum's advance, moving his weapon out of his reach, Binger asked if that meant Rosenbaum was no longer a threat to the teenager.
McGinnis said Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse were still "extremely close" to each other and it was not clear to him "what would have happened if those shots hadn’t been fired."
Sean Krajacic/Pool via REUTERS
Ryan Balch, a military veteran who was among the armed men with Rittenhouse at the used car dealership they said they were protecting, testified that Rosenbaum was acting in a "violent" manner that night, throwing rocks and trying to set fires.
Balch said that in one earlier encounter, Rosenbaum threatened to kill him and Rittenhouse "if he caught them alone."
"Every encounter I saw him have with someone was extremely aggressive," Balch said.
JUROR DISMISSED OVER JOKE
Earlier on Thursday, the trial judge dismissed a juror because he told a joke about the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man whose wounding by a policeman on Aug. 23, 2020, sparked the protests in Kenosha.
"The public needs to be confident that this is a fair trial," Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder told the juror, an older white man who declined to repeat the joke he told to a sheriff's deputy outside the courtroom this week.
"It had nothing to do with the case," the man told the judge.
It was "bad judgment to tell a joke of that nature," Schroeder said, adding he had no choice but to remove the man from the jury.
Blake was shot several times in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Prosecutors cleared the policeman of any wrongdoing, saying he acted in self-defense. Blake has sued him.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Kenosha, Wisconsin; Editing by Ross Colvin, Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney
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