Update: A Wisconsin jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of all charges on Nov. 19, 2021. Read our story on the verdict here. Read all of our Rittenhouse exclusives here.
The criminal complaint charging Kyle Rittenhouse with two counts of homicide leaves out a key point: Why Joseph Rosenbaum, a convicted sex offender, was chasing the 17-year-old in the first place.
Two eyewitnesses interviewed by Wisconsin Right Now say Rosenbaum was enraged because Rittenhouse, and others, were using fire extinguishers to put out an arson fire in a dumpster that Rosenbaum, and others, were trying to push toward police squad cars.
They also believe that Rosenbaum may have been determined to rob Rittenhouse because the teenager seemed like the “weak” member of the herd and had walked off by himself. They think this because they say Rosenbaum, 36, “intricately” tied his shirt around his face, they believed to conceal his identity. Whether that would have been the case is obviously an unknown, but it was their perception.
The two eyewitnesses, Justice and Dylan Putnam, were willing to put their names to it. Videos also back up pieces of what they told us. There’s video of Rittenhouse with the fire extinguisher, video of Rosenbaum pushing the burning dumpster, and, of course, video of Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse down and cornering him behind a car before Rittenhouse opened fire.
“Kyle took a fire extinguisher from someone,” said Justice Putnam, who added that she saw him trying to put out the arson fire in the dumpster. “That started the altercation.”
She said Rosenbaum was angry at Rittenhouse and other armed men who were trying to put the fire out with fire extinguishers. “Rosenbaum was arguing. He said, ‘Why did you do that?'” she said. She said the people associated with BLM or Antifa “started throwing stuff at us. Bricks, metal.” They were using hammers to get chunks of the curbs to throw, she said (we observed chipped away curbs in Kenosha).
Earlier in the day, Rittenhouse, who had worked as a community lifeguard in Kenosha, was seen cleaning graffiti off buildings.
UPDATE: Wisconsin Right Now has obtained video evidence that Rosenbaum had a chain in his hand just prior to the fatal shooting, See here.
Video that captured Rosenbaum pushing the dumpster fire shows multiple people with fire extinguishers.
Additional video has surfaced showing Joseph Rosenbaum and several other rioters pushing a dumpster fire along the road, apparently toward a gas station. As an aside, I really like the way the one carrying a barrel hopelessly drops it once the fire is extinguished. pic.twitter.com/rVmWWFk7do
— Principled Hardcore Ancap BTRBT 🐇 (@BTRBT_) August 30, 2020
The Putnams Say Rosenbaum Was ‘Irate’ About People Putting Out the Dumpster Fire
Joseph Rosenbaum had accrued quite a criminal record before he chased Rittenhouse down. He was convicted of molesting and being sexually inappropriate toward children in Arizona (the criminal complaint in Arizona accuses him of the anal rape of young boys). That landed him on the Wisconsin sex offender registry when he moved here. He had open cases for domestic abuse battery and bail jumping at the time of his death.
According to Justice Putnam, who was present at the scene that night, Rosenbaum was “irate and looking for some kind of altercation.” Video also bears this out; there’s video showing Rosenbaum aggressively confronting another person in a gas station parking lot shortly before the shooting and using the “N” word. The Putnams say he accused them of “pointing a rifle at him.”
Justice Putnam said she believes that Rittenhouse “came by himself,” as opposed to being part of the group of armed men who were in the gas station parking lot with lines of fire extinguishers to put out arson fires. (Multiple Kenosha businesses had burned to the ground in riots the night before. An elderly business owner was beaten by a rioter as he tried to defend his business by himself. There is video showing Rittenhouse hanging out with some of those armed men earlier that night; a local business owner told us Rittenhouse was among men hired by a business owner to protect his car dealership after another burned and because the police weren’t protecting businesses.)
The Putnams said the video of the elderly business owner compelled them to come to Kenosha to also do what they could to protect local businesses since it appeared the police weren’t intervening to do so at that point.
He was “so, so angry,” she said of Rosenbaum. They believed he was angry because people, including Rittenhouse, were trying to put out the arson fire (the fire and pushing it toward police would be a crime).
The Putnams both said there was a dumpster on fire and that people, including Rosenbaum, were trying to push it toward squad cars.
“Kyle was the only one who walked off with a gun,” Justice Putnam said.
Dylan Putnam described how he saw Rosenbaum “intricately wrapping” his red shirt around his head to “conceal his identity. He was probably going to rob him,” he believed. “He (Rittenhouse) looked like the weakest member of the group.”
Video also documents that Rosenbaum did have his shirt tied around his head.
The Putnams saw Rittenhouse “walking around and offering medical assistance” before the shooting. “He just wanted to help so bad,” said Justice Putnam.
Prosecutors have a different view. They think it’s homicide. Read the criminal complaint here.
Ultimately a jury may be asked to decide.