A viral video showed Kyle Rittenhouse trying to surrender to police officers, who ignored him.
One of those officers testified Friday he heard gunfire and assumed an active shooter was still on the loose.
Officer Pep Moretti said he eventually drew his gun on Rittenhouse, while his partner pepper-sprayed the teenager.
A Kenosha police officer who encountered Kyle Rittenhouse moments after he shot three men testified on Friday about why he didn’t arrest the teenager, who had approached a police convoy with his hands in the air and an AR-15 rifle slung across his body.
Officer Pep Moretti testified on the fourth day of Rittenhouse’s homicide trial, where the teenager has pleaded not guilty to fatally shooting two men and injuring a third. Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys have argued that the then-17-year-old shot the men in self-defense after they chased him.
Last fall, a viral video showed Rittenhouse walking up to the officers as they yelled at him to get out of the way and drove off in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. Critics of police flaunted the video as proof that white suspects like Rittenhouse can get away with homicide, while black suspects are handled more roughly in less serious situations.
But Moretti disputed that narrative on Friday. Moretti told the court there were several reasons why he and his partner hadn’t suspected that Rittenhouse was the shooter – namely, they could still hear active gunfire as Rittenhouse approached.
“There was still gunfire erupting around us while we were still out on Sheridan, so we still thought there was an active threat,” Moretti said. He testified that he and his partner’s goal had been to identify the source of the gunfire.
Moretti also said the presence of Rittenhouse’s AR-15 rifle also hadn’t been cause for alarm, given the context of the evening. The majority of people Moretti encountered that night were also armed, he said, whether it was with rifles, handguns, bats, or other objects.
“We were surrounded all night, all week,” Moretti said. “There was probably more people armed with weapons than not.”
Moretti also said Rittenhouse hadn’t displayed the usual signs of surrender. Moretti said typically people who are surrendering will drop to their knees and follow commands. But Rittenhouse ignored their commands and continued approaching their vehicle, Moretti said.
“We were giving him instructions to get out of the roadway and essentially get out of our way so we could get to where we believed the problem to be,” Moretti said.
The officer also shut down the notion that he and his fellow officer had treated Rittenhouse gently when the teenager disobeyed commands.
Moretti testified that when Rittenhouse approached the passenger-side window of the patrol vehicle, Moretti drew his gun on Rittenhouse and Moretti’s partner in the passenger seat pepper-sprayed Rittenhouse.
He said he didn’t know if the spray actually struck Rittenhouse, but it “had the desired effect,” as Rittenhouse abandoned the vehicle and continued walking northbound.
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