Nov. 8, 2021, marked the second week of the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old from Illinois who shot three people, killing two, during a protest against racial injustice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, more than a year prior.
During court proceedings, a rumor spread online that the shooting’s lone survivor — Gaige Grosskreutz — told the court that he “went after” Rittenhouse with a drawn pistol in the split-second before the teenager shot Grosskreutz in the arm.
[See also from Snopes: “Is Kyle Rittenhouse’s Race Described Differently in Separate Court Records?]
That claim, as presented in social media posts, would arguably help Rittenhouse’s legal defense team convince the court that he acted in self-defense when he fired an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle into a crowd.
“Rittenhouse trial should be over immediately,” tweeted a Canadian YouTuber who goes by the pseudonym “Viva Frei”.
Numerous social media posts shared video footage of Grosskreutz, 27, of Milwaukee, supposedly making the statement on the stand, alleged transcripts of the exchange between him and an attorney on Rittenhouse’s legal defense team, or a picture of a prosecutor (who’s trying to convict Rittenhouse of murder) “face palming” during Grosskreutz’ testimony.
For the purpose of this fact check, we are focusing on the alleged statement only: that Grosskreutz in his court testimony acknowledged confronting Rittenhouse with a loaded pistol before his bicep was “vaporized” (as he described it) during the chaos in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020.
That claim was true (we lay out evidence to elaborate on that finding below), though deserved some extra context.
In the moments before their confrontation, Grosskreutz said he saw Rittenhouse shoot another man with his rifle. (That person was Anthony Huber, 26, the second person Rittenhouse shot and killed that night on the streets of downtown Kenosha). The witness also said he had no intention of firing his loaded gun.
“I was never trying to kill the defendant. In that moment, I was trying to preserve my own life, but doing so while taking the life of another is not something I am capable or comfortable doing,” he told the court, according to a video recording by PBS NewsHour.
Grosskreutz said he believed Rittenhouse was an “active shooter,” and that he approached the teenager because he “felt he had to do something to try and prevent myself from being killed or shot.” He told the jury he thought he was going to die.
The recording by PBS NewsHour captured the below-transcribed audio between Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Corey Chirafisi and Grosskreutz, as the attorney simultaneously displayed an Aug. 25, 2020, image of the witness pointing the gun at Rittenhouse, and Rittenhouse on the ground with his rifle pointed at Grosskreutz.
Chirafisi: It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him with your gun […] that he fired, correct?
At that point, the defense attorney remained silent for a few seconds and the camera focused on Rittenhouse sitting by the rest of his legal team. Then, as the camera panned over to prosecutors, one person at the counsel table (whose position or title remained unknown) indeed held his head in his face, like shown in the above-displayed tweet. All assumptions for why, or because of what feelings, exactly, that person made the gesture, were speculative.
Multiple reputable news outlets reported on Grosskreutz’s statement, publishing headlines such as “Shooting victim says he was pointing gun at Rittenhouse” (Associated Press), “Survivor of Rittenhouse shooting says he pointed gun at U.S. teen, tried to disarm him” (Reuters), and “Man shot by Kyle Rittenhouse says he pointed own gun amid fears for life” (BBC News).
The teenager faces six charges, including reckless and intentional homicide. He has denied all accusations, saying he opened fire during the chaos to defend himself.
No social media influencer or political commentator has the authority to legally say whether all evidence (including Grosskreutz’s statement) showed Rittenhouse opened fire multiple times on Aug. 25, 2020, “to prevent “imminent death or great bodily harm,” as stated by Wisconsin’s self-defense law, and whether that belief was appropriate. Only the jury has that authority.
“What’s True and False About Kyle Rittenhouse’s Alleged Victims.” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/news/2020/09/11/rittenhouse-victims-records/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.
“Shooting Victim Says He Was Pointing His Gun at Rittenhouse.” AP NEWS, 8 Nov. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/kyle-rittenhouse-wisconsin-shootings-george-floyd-homicide-cbd8653c42406417c2d3d8559632e3bb.
“EXPLAINER: Prosecutors Play up Rittenhouse Inexperience.” AP NEWS, 7 Nov. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/wisconsin-police-chicago-illinois-police-brutality-3df3e885caf039996246a4d9760859d4.
Wisconsin Legislature: 939.48. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/939/iii/48. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.
WATCH LIVE: Kyle Rittenhouse Trial for Kenosha Shooting Continues – Day 5. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX1SnM-3GQ0. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.