KENOSHA, Wis. — Dominick Black got to know Kyle Rittenhouse last year while dating his sister. In just a few months, Black told a jury on Tuesday, he considered Rittenhouse a brother and saw him nearly every day.
And they were together Aug. 25, 2020, when they took assault-style rifles to a protest against police brutality in downtown Kenosha. It was there that Rittenhouse, now 18, fatally shot two men and wounded a third amid chaotic unrest.
Black, 20, of Kenosha, was the first witness called by the prosecution in Rittenhouse’s trial on charges of intentional, reckless and attempted homicide. His lawyers are arguing he acted in self-defense.
Black testified that shortly after he got an AR-15-style rifle, Rittenhouse expressed interest in one. During a trip to Black’s family’s hunting property in May 2020, Black agreed to buy a rifle for Rittenhouse, who was 17 and couldn’t lawfully buy or possess one.
Black said he used Rittenhouse’s money to make the purchase.
Black said they discussed knowing it was illegal, but agreed Rittenhouse wouldn’t get the gun himself until he turned 18. They shot a couple hundred rounds that week, Black testified, and that was the only time Rittenhouse had used the weapon until Aug. 25, 2020.
Black said he, his brother and Rittenhouse had gone downtown that morning to witness the aftermath of the first two nights of rioting that erupted after thepolice shooting of Jacob Blake Jr. Then they went home, but returned around 5 p.m. after Black’s friend, Nick Smith, said they should help protect Car Source, an auto dealership where Smith formerly worked.
Normally, Black testified, Rittenhouse’s rifle and his own were locked in gun safes at Black’s house. The safes could be opened only by Black’s stepfather. The stepfather, concerned the unrest might reach their home, had taken all the guns to the basement.
Black said he was in the kitchen when Rittenhouse came up the steps with his rifle. Before returning downtown, they bought tactical slings for the rifles.
At Car Source’s repair garage, Black said, one of the owners showed them how to get inside if they needed to and to the ladder Black and some others used to set up on the roof.
“I didn’t want to be in the mix of a lot of problems,” said Black, who is facing two counts of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to someone under 18, resulting in death. “I didn’t want to get hurt.”
Under questioning from prosecutor Thomas Binger, Black testified he needed the rifle in case something bad happened. He thought the weapon might deter others from damaging the business.
Meanwhile, Rittenhouse had hooked up on the ground with Ryan Balch, a former member of the military from Jackson.
They ventured out from Car Source later and got split up. After 11 p.m., Black said, someone called Smith and said vandals were attacking another Car Source lot a few blocks south. He said he couldn’t remember if he or Smith called Rittenhouse to tell him to go there.
Rittenhouse got a fire extinguisher from a gas station and headed to 63rd Street, where he’d encounter Joseph Rosenbaum, and shoot him four times, killing him. He ran back up Sheridan Road, where he killed Anthony Huber, who hit him with a skateboard and tried to take his gun.
Rittenhouse also wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, who had a gun. Grosskruetz was shot in the arm and survived.
Also Tuesday, defense counsel implied during his opening statement that Rittenhouse would take the stand in his own defense.
Richards used about three dozen photos and videos from the night of the shootings during his opening remarks, designed to help lay the foundation of the narrative that Rosenbaum provided the spark that set off the violence, and his own death.
Photos and video – all of which will be seen again or played in the entirety during the trial – show an angry Rosenbaum confronting other people earlier in the night. Richards said Rosenbaum also promised Rittenhouse and another armed man that, “If I get either one of you alone, I’ll kill you.”
“Flat-out threats to murder,” Richards told the jurors.
The trial continues Wednesday. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.
Contributing: Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel