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With closing arguments over, the Kyle Rittenhouse case now heads to the jury

Kyle Rittenhouse pictured last week at the Kenosha County Courthouse.
Kyle Rittenhouse pictured last week at the Kenosha County Courthouse.

Updated November 15, 2021 at 1:37 PM ET

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are making their closing arguments in the criminal trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who is charged with homicide after fatally shooting two protesters during unrest last year in Kenosha, Wis.

Rittenhouse and his lawyers have argued that he was acting in self-defense when he shot three people with his AR-15-style rifle. In a dramatic turn on the stand last week, Rittenhouse testified that he feared for his life.

In his closing arguments Monday, lead prosecutor Thomas Binger argued that Rittenhouse created the peril he faced that night through a series of reckless actions that left other people fearful for their own lives.

Rittenhouse was 17 years old when he traveled to Kenosha and armed himself with an AR-15-style rifle on Aug. 25, 2020. It was a night of unrest in the city, sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was left paralyzed after an encounter with a white officer. Rittenhouse, who lived across the state line in Antioch, Ill., testified that he intended to act as a medic and help protect private property.

"There's people getting in people's faces. There's yelling. There's shouting. There's even shoving. And yet, in this entire sequence of events — from the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, all the way after that, everything this community went through — the only person who shot and killed anyone was the defendant," Binger said.

In a series of chaotic encounters with protesters that night, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, then minutes later shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, then 26. Rosenbaum was unarmed. Huber was striking Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Grosskreutz was armed with a pistol.

Prosecutors were given a boost Friday when Judge Bruce Schroeder ruled they could argue that Rittenhouse had provoked the initial encounter with Rosenbaum by raising his weapon in the moments before Rosenbaum began to chase him. To show that, prosecutors have relied on video footage shot by a drone a block or so away from the incident, in which Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum can be seen in the distance.

"When the defendant provokes the incident, he loses the right to self-defense. You cannot claim self-defense to a danger you create," Binger said.

Rittenhouse faces five felony counts: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering the safety of another. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Jurors may also consider lesser versions of the charges related to the shootings of Huber and Grosskreutz.

On Monday morning, Schroeder dismissed a sixth charge, a misdemeanor related to possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor. Prosecutors brought the charge given Rittenhouse's age at the time of the shooting, but his defense lawyers successfully argued that a loophole in Wisconsin's law allows minors to possess guns with barrels 16 inches or longer.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.