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As he ran from the scene of the shooting of Joseph Rosenbaum, Kyle Rittenhouse encountered one of the heavily armed men who had been with him at the Car Source used car lot throughout the night.
Jason Lackowski of Green Bay testified Friday during the fifth day of Rittenhouse’s trial that he came to Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, after seeing reports of rioting following the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha Police officer, saying he was meeting his friend Ryan Balch, who testified Thursday, in the city.
Lackowski said he arrived armed with an AR-15 and a knife, and later also acquired a tear gas canister. Asked why he and Balch came to Kenosha Lackowski said “just to come down and help in any way we could, to protect local property.”
How did you plan to do that? Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger asked.
“I was trained to shout, shove, show and shoot,” Lackowski said.
Lackowski said he met Rittenhouse that night. “He introduced himself, he said he was an EMT.”
“Did he tell you how old he was?” Binger asked.
“I assumed he was 18 … because in the State of Wisconsin you have to be 18 to be an EMT, and because he was carrying a firearm.”
Rittenhouse is accused of killing Anthony Huber of Silver Lake and Joseph Rosenbaum of Kenosha and seriously injuring Gaige Grosskreutz of West Allis on Aug. 25, 2020. Rittenhouse’s attorneys contend he was acting in self-defense as he was being accosted.
Encounter with a pale Rittenhouse
When the first shooting occurred, Lackowski said he was farther north on Sheridan Road and began running toward the gunfire. The first shooting happened in a lot at the corner of Sheridan Road and 63rd Street.
Lackowski said he encountered Rittenhouse as he ran north along Sheridan.
In an interview with the FBI shortly after the shootings, Lackowski had said Rittenhouse’s face was pale white. On Friday, Lackowski said that Rittenhouse seemed “frazzled, shocked.”
Although in testimony Friday Lackowski said his memory of what was said was not clear, in his statement to the FBI he said Rittenhouse told him he did not shoot anyone, but he needed help.
“I told him to run to the police,” he said. “At that point he started running and I followed.”
Lackowski testified that he heard gunfire behind him, stopped and turned south. He said he then heard gunfire to the north. He said he “blacked out” and the next thing he remembers is coming across an injured Gaige Grosskreutz.
“There was an individual on the ground screaming. Someone was screening for a tourniquet I believe — I believe his name was CJ. I gave it to him and he applied it wrong and I took it off and applied it correctly, then I stayed with Gaige until the police showed up.”
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Lackowski said he also found a pistol on the ground — presumably Grosskreutz’s — and took out the magazine and cleared the chamber.
In cross examination, Rittenhouse defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked whether it did not make more sense that Rittenhouse said “I just shot somebody and I need help”
Lackowski said he was not sure.
During his testimony, Lackowski said he had encountered Rosenbaum earlier in the evening and said he was agitated, was shouting “shoot me, shoot me,” and that he was stepping up aggressively to people.
Lackowski said he did not find Rosenbaum threatening, and said on questioning from the state that he never saw Rosenbaum with any weapons — only a plastic bag — and that he never saw him attempting to injure anyone.
Chirafisi asked Lackowski about the behavior the defense says Rosenbaum was engaged in before Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, if he would feel threatened.
“If I threaten to kill you that night and I’m running at you and try to take your gun?” Chirafisi asked
“A threat to my life, yes,” Lackowski said.
Rosenbaum’s fiancée on stand
Rosenbaum’s fiancée, Kariann Swart, testified Friday that Rosenbaum had been released from a hospital the day of his death, and was dropped off in Downtown Kenosha. Although it is not being shared with the jury, Rosenbaum had been in the hospital for mental health treatment after a suicide attempt.
In criminal cases like that against Rittenhouse, a jury would almost never hear information about either the defendant’s past if it is not directly related to the case, or that of the past of victims in the case if it is not something that the defendant would have known.
Prosecutors asked the judge in the case to allow them to introduce information about some of Rittenhouse’s past conduct, including a fight on Kenosha’s lakefront in which he was videotaped punching a girl, and another in which he is heard on audio on a videotape saying he would like to shoot rounds into people with his AR-15 that he presumed were stealing from a store. In both cases, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder ruled against the state.
Similarly the defense asked that information about Rosenbaum’s past criminal history be allowed as evidence, arguing that because he had a felony conviction it made it more likely he wanted to take Rittenhouse’s gun. That request was also denied by the judge.
During testimony by both Swart and Anthony Huber’s Great-Aunt Susan Hughes Friday, attorneys for the defense argued that testimony from the women was opening the door to the defense asking about their past.
The prosecution had hoped to ask Hughes about a past action of Huber’s when he had run into a dangerous situation to aid his family. But Schroeder said that if they pursued those questions it would then allow the defense to ask questions about Huber’s criminal past, which included two convictions for domestic violence involving his siblings.
Prosecutors opted to withdraw their questioning about Huber, with Hughes testifying briefly about Huber’s love of skateboarding, and a visit she made with him to her son’s memorial bench in Petrifying Springs Park the day before Huber was killed. She said he talked to her about Jacob Blake, who he had known personally.
“It just sticks in my memory that he said he knew him, that was the reason we went out there that day,” Hughes said.
Last conversation shared
In her testimony, Swart said Rosenbaum walked to the hotel where she was staying. The couple had been homeless during portions of their relationship, at one point living in a tent, but had recently been staying in a hotel room. She estimated it would have taken Rosenbaum an hour to walk from the transit center where he had been dropped off by hospital personnel to her hotel.
When he arrived he was carrying a plastic bag he had received at the hospital — the same bag he threw at Rittenhouse before Rittenhouse shot him. Although there has been some discussion during the trial that the bag may have been used as some sort of weapon, Swart said she looked inside, wondering if he wanted to throw it out.
“I saw socks, a miniature deodorant, a little toothbrush and toothpaste, paperwork, and an empty water bottle,” she said. He told her he wanted to keep the bag to carry his things, saying she thought he also put a shirt in the bag before he left.
“It was really good,” she said of their last conversation. “We were talking about things we needed to work on in our relationship.” She said he seemed excited and happy, and was talking about changes he wanted to make in his life. “When he left he said he would see me in the morning.”
Not shared with the jury was why Rosenbaum, who had bipolar disorder, was not able to stay with Swart. He was out on bond for domestic battery, and had a no contact order with Swart. She told him to stay away from the area where there had been rioting.
“I did explain to him that things had gotten bad the last few days because he had not been in town the last few days and I did tell him explicitly not to go downtown,” Swart said.
Swart testified that she learned that Rosenbaum was dead at about 4 a.m. the following morning when she got a call from the Kenosha County Medical Examiner. She said she looked on social media to see if there was information about the shootings.
“There was a video link and I clicked that and that’s when I saw the video of Joe dying. I broke down … I can’t get that image out of my head,” Swart said.
She said her sister drove her to the Car Source lot where Rosenbaum had been killed.
“There was the mark where Joe had been laying, and I put my hand in it and my hand was wet with his blood,” Swart said. “Then I again collapsed on the ground.”
Prosecutors are expected to continue to present their case through early next week, with Gaige Grosskreutz expected to be among their witnesses. The defense will then present its case, with the trial anticipated to stretch into a third week.