A self-defense claim like the one Kyle Rittenhouse has made may hinge on the question of how reasonable the defendant’s actions were in the circumstances.
On the night of Aug. 25, 2020, when Mr. Rittenhouse shot three people, two of them fatally, he was with others who, like him, said they were on the streets to protect business premises.
Prosecutors used testimony from several of those armed people to highlight how many went to Kenosha in that turbulent time and did not shoot anyone, while the defense argued that none of those people faced the peril Mr. Rittenhouse did. Here is what five of them told the court.
Mr. Black, now 20, dated Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister, and grew so close to Mr. Rittenhouse in the year before the shootings that they called each other brothers, Mr. Black testified. He faces charges for providing Mr. Rittenhouse with the semiautomatic rifle used in the shooting, and said on the stand that he was testifying for the prosecution in hope of a lighter sentence.
Mr. Black and Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, went downtown together on Aug. 25, carrying their nearly identical military-style semiautomatic rifles. Prosecutors emphasized that Mr. Black stayed on the roof of a building at one of the used car lots the two were guarding, because he thought it would be safer there than at street level, where Mr. Rittenhouse was.
An Army veteran in his early 30s who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Balch testified that he went to Kenosha armed with a pistol and with a semiautomatic rifle that he had fired 10,000 to 15,000 times before.
Mr. Balch walked with Mr. Rittenhouse on the street on Aug. 25, and testified that he watched over Mr. Rittenhouse, who he thought was “underequipped and underexperienced.”
On the stand, Mr. Balch described the first man Mr. Rittenhouse shot — Joseph Rosenbaum, 36 — as “hyperaggressive” in the hours before the shooting. Mr. Balch testified that he had heard Mr. Rosenbaum threaten to kill him, Mr. Rittenhouse and others that night, but did not see Mr. Rosenbaum hurt anyone.
A Marine Corps veteran who lives in Green Bay and knows Mr. Balch, Mr. Lackowski backed up Mr. Balch’s testimony that Mr. Rosenbaum had been belligerent, saying that Mr. Rosenbaum challenged people to shoot him in the hours before he was killed.
Mr. Lackowski testified, though, that he did not view Mr. Rosenbaum as a threat. “I turned my back to him and ignored him,” Mr. Lackowski said on the stand.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Mr. Lackowski helped tie a tourniquet around the badly wounded arm of one of the men Mr. Rittenhouse shot: Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived the episode and testified in the trial as well.
Ms. Fiedler, 56, who lives north of Milwaukee, was armed with a .380-caliber pistol and joined others guarding the used car lots. She said she hoped her gun would serve as a “deterrent.”
Like others, she testified that Mr. Rosenbaum threatened people in the period before the shooting, but she also seconded the accounts of witnesses who said they did not regard him as a serious threat to their safety.
Mr. Smith, 23, of Kenosha, testified that he had worked at the used car lots in the past, and that the owners asked him to assemble a team of people to guard the lots — a team that included Mr. Rittenhouse, Mr. Black and others.
Mr. Smith said that Mr. Rittenhouse lent him body armor and that Mr. Smith had pepper spray and a gun that shoots pepper-spray balls. As the police pushed demonstrators into the area of the car lots, he said, Mr. Balch handed him a pistol.