Freelance journalist Andrew “Drew” Hernandez testified Thursday in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that the defendant tried to “deescalate” a conflict between rioters and armed guards watching a local business.
Hernandez, who traveled the country documenting the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020, was called as a defense witness and said that Rittenhouse had been successful, for that moment, in defusing tension between the two groups on August 25, 2020.
The testimony was relevant because prosecutors have sought to portray Rittenhouse’s actions as provocative. Under state law in Wisconsin, self-defense can be invoked only if the defendant did not provoke an attack. If the defendant did provoke an attack, he or she could then only use deadly force in self-defense if it was reasonable to fear death or serious bodily harm.
Hernandez said that Joseph Rosenbaum, who charged Rittenhouse and was the first person Rittenhouse shot that evening, later became agitated when he saw someone put out a dumpster fire that rioters had been trying to use to obstruct the road. After that point, Hernandez said, the rioters identified the individual who had used the fire extinguisher with the volunteer guards. They then turned their attention away from police and toward the guards, who had gathered at a nearby gas station.
He testified that Rosenbaum “led the charge into the gas station” and that he became “physically aggressive,” shouting, “Shoot me, [N-word], shoot me, [N-word]” to provoke a fight with the guards, who had gathered at the gas station. The court then watched Hernandez’s footage of the encounter, which corroborated his testimony and his recollection of events.
Later, Hernandez added, he saw Rosenbaum trying to light another fire, this time with his face partly concealed by a T-shirt. Kyle — or a person with “purple gloves” — then put out that second fire and asked “if anyone needs medical.”
He then saw Rosenbaum charge Rittenhouse from behind and saw and heard a firearm discharge — not from Rittenhouse. When Rittenhouse turned around, Hernandez testified, he saw Rosenbaum charging toward him. Asked by defense attorney Corey Chirafisi if he had seen Rittenhouse acting aggressively that night, Hernandez replied, “In no way, shape, or form.”
“The first time I saw Kyle, he actually deescalated the situation,” Hernandez confirmed. He also said he had not seen Rittenhouse point his firearm at anyone.
On cross-examination, the prosecution attempted to imply that Hernandez was biased against Black Lives Matter protests, which “you call riots.”
Judge Bruce Schroeder interjected, “This is not a political trial.”
At the start of the day, the judge asked for a round of applause from the courtroom for all of the veterans present.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.