Only one of the three men shot during a night of protests in Kenosha last month survived, and he’s still reliving it every day.
“That’s all I think about,” Gaige Grosskreutz, 22, told CNN in an exclusive interview Tuesday. “I play it back in my head, I think about it all the time.”
The gunshots, the screams and the chaos that followed still play out in his head as if it were August 25 again.
“I think about everything all the time,” Grosskreutz said.
That night, protesters in the Wisconsin city were demanding justice after an officer repeatedly shot Jacob Blake in his back while his children watched from his car.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is accused in the shooting during the protest that followed. He had an affinity for police his social media makes clear. He took part in a program for youth interested in becoming police officers.
Now he faces two felony charges of homicide in the deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony M. Huber, and a felony attempted homicide charge in Grosskreutz’s incident. Rittenhouse is also facing charges of possessing a dangerous weapon while under the age of 18, which is a misdemeanor. Under Wisconsin law he is not legally allowed to possess a gun at his age. His attorney says he acted in self-defense.
As Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, fought for his life at the hospital after being shot by an officer on August 23, protesters took to the streets.
Police and civilians faced off the first night and the second. But on the third night, August 25, demonstrators and visibly armed civilians also faced off.
Before the shooting, Rittenhouse – clutching a long rifle – told a journalist who was trailing him that he was a trained medic, according to a criminal complaint. The teenager worked part time at a YMCA before being furloughed due to Covid-19.
Grosskreutz said he worked as a paramedic before going back to college in Wisconsin where currently he is studying. Grosskreutz said he has attended many peaceful protests in Milwaukee – which has seen more than 100 days of protests – against police brutality and racial injustice.
But the night he encountered Rittenhouse changed his life, Grosskreutz said.
“I was shot point blank with a .223 round from the shooter,” Grosskreutz said. “And I am now missing 90% of my bicep. This has not been easy emotionally, physically. I’m in constant pain, like excruciating pain that just doesn’t go away – both in my arm, in my heart.”
According to the complaint, Rittenhouse shot the first victim, Joseph Rosenbaum, multiple times after the victim threw a plastic bag at him and tried to grab Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse then ran away and was chased as people appeared to try to stop him, video shows. He then fired off more rounds, killing Huber and badly injuring Grosskreutz, the complaint says
As police and emergency vehicles raced to the scene and videos of the fatal encounter appeared on social media, the armed suspect walked past a group of officers with his arms raised and the rifle hanging from his chest. He turned himself in to police the next day, 30 miles away in Antioch, Illinois.
Grosskreutz says he packed his medic bag – and his licensed gun
Disturbed by video of the Blake shooting, Grosskreutz said he made the 40-mile trip from his home in Milwaukee to Kenosha to attend the protests.
Grosskreutz said he packed medical supplies in a small backpack to be ready to provide medical attention. He also said he decided to bring his licensed gun with him. He said he was concerned after seeing a call to arms on Facebook by a group called the Kenosha Guard, a self-styled militia group that was using the social media platform to encourage armed citizens to take to the streets.
“Everybody was there exercising their right to protest. And there were some people who were exercising their right to bear arms, including myself,” he said.
Grosskreutz said he saw a need for medical assistance that night and put on a paramedic hat and stepped back from protesting to treat those who were injured – on either side of the protest.
“He was down there to try to provide assistance to everybody indiscriminately,” said Grosskreutz’ lawyer, Kimberley Motley.
Social media video captured the shooting as it unfolded
Social media video from live streamers that night captured events as they unfolded.
Rittenhouse is seen taking part in shootings at two locations. In one video, the criminal complaint against him said, Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at him and tried to disarm him and Rittenhouse fatally shot the man.
In two other videos, Rittenhouse was seen running and people yelling and chasing after him. Someone yelled, “He just shot someone.”
And someone else replied, “Get his a**.”
Rittenhouse appears to trip and falls to the ground. He fires his weapon as one man gets close but misses, video shows.
Then Anthony Huber uses his skateboard and hits Rittenhouse in the shoulder and then falls on him.
According to a criminal complaint, Huber appeared to reach for the suspect’s gun with his hand while holding the skateboard in the other. As Huber tried to grab the gun, the suspect pointed it at his body and fired one round, video shows and the complaint reiterates.
Huber was seen staggering away and then falling to the ground. He died from his gunshot wound, according to the complaint.
Grosskreutz then is seen approaching Rittenhouse and is shot in the arm at close range.
Grosskreutz can be seen running away. He has a large wound and his arm is not moving. You can also see a gun in the hand of his injured arm. He can be heard screaming for a medic.
“I never fired my gun,” Grosskreutz said. “I was there to help people. Not hurt people.”
Grosskreutz said he has had run-ins with police in his past and paid his debt. But he says he had every right to carry his firearm.
“I’m not a felon,” he said. “I have my concealed carry, I’ve had it for years. That was my gun. My firearm. I had a legal right to possess it and to possess it concealed.”
Motley, Grosskreutz’ attorney, said Rittenhouse did not have a right to have his weapon. He is charged with possessing a dangerous weapon under the age of 18.
In a statement to NBC News, Rittenhouse’s attorney John Pierce said, “This was classic self-defense and we are going to prove it. We will obtain justice for Kyle no matter how hard the fight or how long it takes.”
Grosskreutz said he never used his gun that night, even after being shot.
The last patient he tended to was himself, Grosskreutz says
Grosskreutz said he did not expect that the last patient he would treat that night would be himself.
Grosskreutz said he used his own medic bag and with the help of CJ Halliburton, who was streaming the entire incident live but stopped to help Grosskreutz, he was able to have a tourniquet applied to his arm before police drove him to the hospital.
“That was a grievous wound. Had I not had my training and proper equipment … to treat a gunshot wound, I might not be here doing this interview,” Grosskreutz said
He described a chaotic scene over the course of that night before the gunfire. Buildings had been damaged and fires had been set by people taking part in the protests.
He said police used tear gas and rubber bullets.
Before the shooting took place, video shows police being friendly with Rittenhouse and handing him water.
“And then they gave the shooter water at some point in time and said that they appreciated the shooter,” he said of police, referring to a video from the scene before the shooting occurred.
Motley said there was blame to go around for Rittenhouse’s actions, including law enforcement who didn’t stop him from leaving; Facebook for not taking down posts of the Kenosha Guard event; the person who gave Rittenhouse the gun; and anyone who helped Rittenhouse cross state lines after he shot several people.
“Although (Rittenhouse) may have been the one who pulled the trigger, there certainly are a lot of people that put bullets in that gun,” Motley said.
Facebook later apologized for missing the Kenosha Guard post. A Facebook spokesperson told CNN the page violated the company’s policy on militia organizations.
When asked why officers did not stop Rittenhouse from leaving the scene, Kenosha Sheriff David Beth told reporters that tunnel vision can occur in high-stress environments like that August 25 night.
Grosskreutz said he and his family, including his 65-year-old grandmother, are getting death threats online from people who support Rittenhouse.
“None of it is true, of what people have been saying as far as their assumptions toward me, at least,” he said. “I’m not an Antifa terrorist organizer. I am a 22-year-old male. I go to school. And yeah, I exercise my First Amendment right to peacefully protest.”
Grosskreutz is still being treated by doctors in the same hospital where Jacob Blake is being treated for his gunshot wounds.
Rittenhouse is in jail in Illinois. He has an extradition hearing on September 25 to send him back to Wisconsin where the charges were brought against him.
“The shooter walked away and got to sleep in their bed that night. Some people didn’t get that luxury – two people that night, myself (as well), didn’t get that luxury,” Grosskreutz said.
Grosskreutz stared at the floor, tears in his eyes.
“I’m going through a tough day but like I said, I’m a strong person,” he said. “But everybody’s hurting from this in one way or another. I walked away with my life that night but two people didn’t.”