Joseph Rosenbaum woke up on the morning of Aug. 25, 2020 — which would be the last morning of his life — in the mental ward of a Kenosha hospital. According to Rosenbaum's fiancée, who spoke at length to the Washington Post, he was there because he had attempted suicide for the second time in two months. Rosenbaum was apparently homeless and had nowhere to go when he was dumped back on the streets of Kenosha, so he went to the only place he felt he could go — to a motel where he knew his fiancée was staying.
She, however, refused to allow him to enter, telling the Post that Rosenbaum had filed a protective order against him after an incident in which she was forced to call the cops on Rosenbaum a month earlier after he "knocked her down and bloodied her mouth." She told Rosenbaum that if the cops found him there, he would be sent back to jail. She told Rosenbaum she wanted to be with him, but he needed to try to get his life right. And so Rosenbaum, having nowhere else to go, would head downtown and get swept up into the maelstrom of protests that engulfed Kenosha that night.
Rosenbaum's past might most charitably be described as "troubled." According to the Post, Rosenbaum had never met his father and was sexually molested by an alcoholic stepfather "on an almost daily basis" growing up. His mother was sent to prison when he was a teenager, and during his stay at a group home, he began using heroin and methamphetamines. When his mother got out of prison, she apparently kicked Rosenbaum out of her house, whereupon he was taken in by a number of families who wanted to help him.
Rosenbaum responded, apparently, by molesting their children. Rosenbaum was convicted at the age of 18 of sexually molesting at least five boys between the ages of 9 and 11 and sentenced to prison, where he remained for over a decade. After he was released from prison in 2016, he fathered a child with a woman who quickly decided she wanted nothing to do with him and moved to Kenosha, according to the Post. He spent most of his time in Kenosha homeless, sharing a tent or sleeping bag with an unidentified woman who apparently agreed to marry him.
The Post's profile of Rosenbaum is lengthy and worth a read; whether you view Rosenbaum as an object of pity or a monster, or some combination of both, is likely due to your overall perspective on life. What is clear, however, is that Rosenbaum was not an activist or BLM ally. He did not end up in the protests on Aug. 25 because he had a burning commitment to social justice; rather, he wound up there because he had nowhere else to go. And, as a dangerous and unstable individual, he seems to have been drawn to the mayhem and actively participated in it.
Kyle Rittenhouse, of course, knew none of these things about Joseph Rosenbaum at the time he shot him, which is why the trial judge properly excluded all of this information from testimony at trial. But what he did know about Rosenbaum was certainly enough to convince him that this visibly unbalanced individual intended him harm.
According to testimony elicited at trial, Rittenhouse came to Kenosha on the night of Aug. 24, 2020, the day after Jacob Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha police officers, sparking widespread rioting and civil unrest in Kenosha and elsewhere. The following day, on the 25th, he was seen earlier in the day cleaning graffiti that had been spray-painted the night before.
I will warn you up front that virtually all of the videos embedded in this post contain graphic images and language.
Rittenhouse fell in with a group that was intending to protect the CarSource in Kenosha, which had been the target of a significant amount of damage from the rioting. Testimony at trial hotly differed as to whether Rittenhouse and his friends were asked to protect the CarSource or not — the owner of the CarSource denied that they were, but another CarSource employee verified that they had, in fact, asked for help.
Earlier in the day, Rittenhouse was spotted with a bulletproof vest. Rittenhouse testified that he obtained the vest as part of his police cadet program with the Grayslake, Illinois, police department, and the department confirmed that some cadets do get bulletproof vests, which they raise the money for. Rittenhouse did not have the vest on when he encountered Rosenbaum, because he had given it to one of the other armed guards he was with, suggesting that Rittenhouse, at least, did not believe that he was going to be involved in an armed confrontation that night, and certainly indicates that he did not intend to provoke one.
Although the timeline is difficult to place in exact chronological order prior to the dumpster fire that may have set off the entire chain of shootings, Rosenbaum was without question seen and captured either on video or on camera numerous times prior to the actual shooting. In all of them, he is either causing criminal activity or agitating and getting in people's faces. In one of them, Rosenbaum repeatedly drops the N-word in front of black protesters while daring someone to shoot him, causing even the other rioters to ask him to cool down, saying, "You're going to get us all killed."
In fact, Rosenbaum's behavior was so openly hostile that night that the prosecutor was forced to concede in his opening statement that "at various points the evidence will show that Mr. Rosenbaum is agitating, he is getting in people's faces, he is using obscenities, he is essentially daring people to respond. In fact, at ultimate gas, I believe the evidence will show that he actually gets right up in the face of armed people who are similarly armed as the defendant who have similar a AR-15-type rifles on and he is literally confronting them in their faces."
Rosenbaum was seen during the course of the night repeatedly in the company of one Joshua Ziminski, another individual with a lengthy criminal history who will play a vital role later in the story. He was present with Rosenbaum, for example, during the confrontation in the gas station parking lot.
During that confrontation, at which Rittenhouse was present, Ziminski was seen grinning eerily and brandishing a firearm.
Ziminski would ultimately be charged with discharging the gun later on in that night, but more on that later.
In fact, those were not the only charges that Ziminski would eventually face in connection with the events of Aug. 25, 2020. He and his wife would also be charged with arson in connection with lighting a dumpster on fire, in what would likely turn out to be the pivotal event of that night. That fire, which Ziminski and his wife apparently lit, and then pushed (along with Rosenbaum) toward a line of cop cars, started the confrontation that would end with Rosenbaum's death.
In video taken of the event and played at trial, you can clearly see that Rosenbaum, with his distinctive maroon shirt with black front pocket, is one of the ones pushing the flaming dumpster when someone carrying a fire extinguisher came and put it out.
Kenosha dumpster fire put out by Good Samaritain in location where Kyle Rittenhouse was attacked www.youtube.com
As was also clearly evident in the video, the protesters were none too happy about their fire being doused. In the above video, the rioters can clearly be heard hurling obscenities at the person who put out the fire.
Also at that Ultimate Gas station, Rosenbaum got into another altercation with another person who was there that was so forceful that other people had to hold Rosenbaum back (in what was likely a bizarre coincidence, one of the people holding Rosenbaum back was the second person shot by RIttenhouse, Anthony Huber) from physically attacking this other man. It is impossible to know for sure one way or the other at this point, but for whatever reason, Rosenbaum at this point took it into his head to pursue Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse testified in his own defense, and this testimony was corroborated by two other witnesses on the stand, that Rosenbaum said at this point words to the effect of, "If I get either of you alone, I'll kill you."
Earlier in the evening, Rittenhouse and his group had been shooed away from one of the CarSource locations by the police, and at some point they decided to head to a different CarSource lot, they claim in response to a call that help was needed there. At any point during the night, Rosenbaum, who was within easy hearing distance of Rittenhouse and his group, could have heard these plans, and certainly appears that he did, because according to FBI surveillance drone video, he — accompanied again by Ziminski — went into a parking lot on the route between Rittenhouse's location and that CarSource lot, and hid behind a car, waiting.
Prosecutors initially claimed in their opening statement that this surveillance drone showed that Rittenhouse "chased" Rosenbaum down the street; this contention was dropped by prosecutors and vanished from the trial due to the most damaging part of the whole trial for the prosecution: the testimony of detective Martin Howard, who was one of the lead investigators on the case. Howard testified that the video actually showed Rosenbaum lying in wait for Rittenhouse in an apparent ambush. He also testified, consistent with other witnesses, that Rosenbaum had fashioned his shirt into a mask at the time, indicating that he was attempting to hide his face — notably, Rosenbaum was seen without any sort of COVID mask at any point prior in the evening.
Detective Martin's testimony on this point was worth watching in its entirety, even though it is relatively lengthy, for it shows the insurmountable difficulties the prosecution faced trying to disprove Rittenhouse's claim of self-defense against Rosenbaum in this case.
WATCH LIVE: Kyle Rittenhouse trial for Kenosha shooting continues - Day 2 youtu.be
WATCH LIVE: Kyle Rittenhouse trial for Kenosha shooting continues - Day 3 youtu.be
The Duramax car that Rosenbaum had been hiding behind was literally on fire — either a fire set by someone else that Rosenbaum bizarrely did not notice or feel compelled to move away from, or a fire that Rosenbaum set himself in order to lure Rittenhouse (who was seen throughout the night with a fire extinguisher) into getting closer. When Rittenhouse did approach the Duramax, apparently to extinguish the fire, Rittenhouse can be seen emerging from behind the vehicle. Rittenhouse testified that Rosenbaum then threatened to kill him. Although no cell phone audio picked up the initial words between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum, no one contradicted this testimony, either, and multiple witnesses testified, consistent with cell phone video, that Rittenhouse then yelled, "Friendly! Friendly! Friendly!"
Undeterred, Rosenbaum began to chase Rittenhouse in spite of the gun slung around his shoulder. As demonstrated by the FBI surveillance video, and corroborated by the testimony of Detective Howard, Rosenbaum appears to have been faster afoot than Rittenhouse and eventually caught up to him, in the parking lot, whereupon Rittenhouse found himself between a vehicle, the side of a building, and a group of protesters who were setting another fire. Rittenhouse at this point pointed the gun at Rosenbaum, who momentarily stopped.
At this moment, a gunshot went off behind Rittenhouse. We know now, although we did not know initially, that this shot was fired by Rosenbaum's accomplice of the evening, Joseph Ziminski. The prosecution bizarrely did not call Ziminski to testify, even though they knew who he was well before trial, to explain why he fired this shot, which caused Rittenhouse to briefly turn and attempt to locate the source of the sound. According to the uncontested testimony of the Daily Caller's Richie McGinnis elicited at trial, Rosenbaum used this opportunity to charge at Rittenhouse, saying, "F*** you" and reaching for Rittenhouse's gun.
Detective Howard also testified that in the surveillance video provided by the FBI, Rosenbaum could be heard yelling, before he charged, "You won't do s**t, motherf***er!"
What You Missed From Kyle Rittenhouse Day 3 www.youtube.com
The testimony elicited at trial, including the powder marks on Rosenbaum's hands, clearly established that Rosenbaum's hand was either on or very near the gun when it was fired.
Everything that happened after that moment constitutes a tragedy of errors, in the purest sense of the word. It is virtually undisputed that none of the other people who were shot — or shot at — by Rittenhouse after this event were there when it happened. None of them saw what happened between Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse prior to the shooting. None of them saw Rosenbaum threatening Rittenhouse, or chasing him, or charging him after Rittenhouse had been cornered and forced to level his gun at Rosenbaum. None of them were likely aware that Rosenbaum was, by all accounts, a man who cared little for the value of his own life and who was likely not on his proper medication at that time, according to the testimony of his fiancée.
And so, when they began to chase and attack Rittenhouse, they may have believed that they were doing the right thing, believing that Rittenhouse had shot down Rosenbaum in cold blood.
But for Rittenhouse, his defense hinged entirely on the self-defense case he had against Rosenbaum; because if he did not have a valid self-defense case against Rosenbaum, then the other people nearby were, in fact, privileged to attempt to intervene.
The problem for the prosecution in this case is that Rosenbaum's case was clearly the easiest. He clearly was shown on numerous videos to be displaying erratic and confrontational behavior. According to the testimony of the state's own lead investigator, he then laid in wait for Rittenhouse in order to ambush him. And a person who was photographed and videotaped alongside him all night fired a shot in a clear attempt to distract him right before Rosenbaum charged.
The main reason that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted was very simple: The first shooting, which started the whole cascade of subsequent events, was the most clearly justified of all.