KENOSHA – Richie McGinniss had come to Kenosha on Aug. 24, 2020, from Washington, D.C., to cover events for the news website, The Daily Caller.
The city had erupted in protests, violence and arson a day earlier, after the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake Jr.
The next night, he interviewed Kyle Rittenhouse on camera as the teen cradled an AR-15-style rifle in front of a car shop he said he was there to protect. Fourteen minutes later, McGinniss was just 15 feet away when Rittenhouse fatally shot the first of two men.
One of the four shots almost hit him, McGinniss told jurors Thursday during Rittenhouse’s homicide trial. He said he sensed something whiz by his lower leg. He stamped his feet to make sure he wasn’t hit.
Rittenhouse faces charges of intentional, reckless and attempted homicide. His lawyers say he acted in self-defense. His trial began Monday.
McGinniss had a hard time watching some of his own video, as well as footage captured by others that showed what happened in the minutes following the shooting. He and others tried to save Joseph Rosenbaum, 36.
McGinniss stripped off his shirt and held it to Rosenbaum’s head, after he turned Rosenbaum from his stomach to his back.
“My dad was an ER doctor. I know if something’s bleeding, to apply pressure,” he said.
His phone was recording as dozens of other people arrived amid screams and more gunshots. As that video played, McGinniss looked down a lot, or away, and drank water.
He helped carry Rosenbaum into a hospital vehicle across the street and rode with him the short way to the emergency room entrance on the other side of the building.
“I told him we were going to have a beer afterward, that everything was going to be OK,” McGinniss told jurors. “I’d like to think he could hear me,” but he said Rosenbaum never really responded beyond rolling one eye.
“It was just surreal. I felt … scared about what was going to happen, what I’d have to do, because of what I’d seen,” he said. He gave a statement to police, let them download his phone and was on the witness stand for the state on Thursday.
He said a while after his initial interview with Rittenhouse, he noticed the 17-year-old running south on Sheridan Road with a fire extinguisher and ran after him. He assumed something “newsworthy” was happening or was about to.
He said Rittenhouse slowed near the corner of the Car Source lot at 63rd Street and was facing Rosenbaum, who had been acting aggressively among protesters all night. McGinniss said Rosenbaum ran at Rittenhouse, who kind of juked, or pivoted then bolted across the car lot.
By then, McGinniss was only a few feet behind Rosenbaum. He thought he was recording the whole time, but said his phone somehow had switched to still photo mode. Another person with a camera did capture McGinniss trailing Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse, and the shootings, from the far side of the car lot.
McGinniss said the only words he heard were Rosenbaum loudly, very angrily yell “F — you” at Rittenhouse just before he lunged toward his rifle. Rittenhouse had stopped between two cars and shot Rosenbaum there.
McGinniss said while focused on helping Rosenbaum, he didn’t realize the two legs he later saw out the corner of his eye belonged to Rittenhouse, who had run south from the cars and circled back. He said he yelled “Call 911” and saw the person reach for a phone.
McGinniss, who has covered rioting in other cities, said he’s seen a few other volunteer medics with handguns, never one with a rifle. Rittenhouse had told him he was out not only to protect Car Source, but to provide first aid to people injured during the protests.
On cross examination, defense attorney Mark Richards asked if McGinniss thought Rittenhouse saw him in those last seconds and perhaps felt he was being chased by two people. McGinniss said he was too focused on the gun barrel to see Rittenhouse’s eyes.
“Any time there are guns, that elevates the danger, to my mind. Everyone’s very passionate about why they’re out there.”
The jury also heard from Ryan Balch, a former Army infantryman from Jackson, Wisconsin. He said he and three friends decided to go to Kenosha after some protesters he knew told him “they were having a rough time down there.”
He said he didn’t know Rittenhouse or his group, but they agreed to help them guard the Car Source lots. He said he thought Rittenhouse looked young, but “the consensus was he was 19.”
Balch said he tried to kind of monitor and protect the teen, and his buddies each did the same for Rittenhouse’s other young friends. He said Rittenhouse was extremely interested in what he’d done in the military.
The purpose, he said was to stop people “from rioting and looting and what not,” and that just being there, in body armor and armed with assault-style rifles, seemed to deter many of them.
But some time after 11 p.m., he said, he and Rittenhouse got split up while they were walking around asking if anyone needed medical attention. He said he looked for him at a gas station where many people were hanging around, but decided to head back to the pre-planned rendezvous point when he couldn’t find him.
Balch said he didn’t make it there because the shooting started to the south. He said he never did see Rittenhouse again that night.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Witness says he was nearly hit when Kyle Rittenhouse opened fire