“That’s all I think about,” said 22-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz CNN in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. “I play it in my head, I think about it all the time.”
The gunshots, the screams, and the chaos that followed still played out in his head like it was August 25th again.
“I think about everything all the time,” said Grosskreutz.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is charged in the shootings during the following protest. He had an affinity with the police, which his social media make it clear. He participated in a program for young people interested in becoming police officers.
Protesters took to the streets as Blake, a 29-year-old black man, was fighting for his life in the hospital after he was shot dead by an officer on August 23.
Police and civilians faced each other on the first and second night. But on the third night, August 25, demonstrators and visibly armed civilians also faced each other.
Before the shooting, Rittenhouse told a journalist who was chasing him that a criminal complaint said he was a trained paramedic. The teenager worked part-time at a YMCA before being given leave of absence for Covid-19.
Grosskreutz said he worked as a paramedic before returning to college in Wisconsin, where he is currently studying. Grosskreutz said he has participated in many peaceful protests in Milwaukee, during which more than 100 days of protests against police brutality and racial injustice were committed.
But the night he met Rittenhouse changed his life, said Grosskreutz.
“I was shot at close range by the shooter with a .223 round,” said Grosskreutz. “And now I’m 90% missing of my biceps. It wasn’t easy emotionally and physically. I have constant pain, like excruciating pain that just doesn’t go away – both in my arm and in my heart.”
According to the complaint, Rittenhouse shot and killed the first victim, Joseph Rosenbaum, several times after the victim threw a plastic bag at him and tried to grab Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse then ran away and was followed when people appeared to try to stop him on video shows. Then he fired more rounds, killed Huber and seriously injured Grosskreutz, according to the complaint
As police and emergency vehicles sped to the scene and videos of the fatal encounter appeared on social media, the armed suspect walked past a group of officers with arms raised and rifle to his chest. The next day, he turned himself in to the police 30 miles away in Antioch, Illinois.
Grosskreutz says he packed his paramedic bag – and his licensed weapon
Grosskreutz was troubled by the video of the Blake shooting and said he had made the 40-mile journey from his Milwaukee home to Kenosha to attend the protests.
Grosskreutz said he packed medical supplies in a small backpack to be ready for medical supplies. He also said he had decided to bring his licensed gun. He said he was concerned after seeing a call to arms on Facebook by a group called the Kenosha Guard, a self-proclaimed militia group that used the social media platform to encourage armed citizens to take to the streets.
“Everyone was there and exercised their right to protest. And there were some people who exercised their right to carry weapons, including me,” he said.
Grosskreutz said he saw a need for medical help that night, put on a paramedic hat and stepped back from the protest to treat the injured – on both sides of the protest.
“He was down there trying to help everyone indiscriminately,” said Grosskreutz’s attorney, Kimberley Motley.
Social media videos recorded the recordings in the history
Live streamers social media videos that night recorded events as they played out.
Rittenhouse participates in shootings in two locations. In one video, according to the criminal complaint against him, 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 him. Someone yelled, “He just shot someone.”
And someone else replied, “Get his a **.”
Rittenhouse seems to stumble and falls to the ground. He fires his gun as a man approaches but misses, video shows.
Then Anthony Huber uses his skateboard and hits Rittenhouse in the shoulder and then falls on him.
Huber was seen staggering and then falling to the ground. According to the complaint, he died from his gunshot wound.
Grosskreutz then approaches Rittenhouse and is shot in the arm at close range.
Grosskreutz runs away. He has a large wound and his arm does not move. You can also see a gun in the hand of his injured arm. You can hear him screaming for a paramedic.
“I never fired my gun,” said Grosskreutz. “I was there to help people. Not to hurt people.”
Grosskreutz said he had run-ins with the police in his past and paid his debts. But he says he had every right to carry his weapon.
“I’m not a felon,” he said. “I have my hidden comfort, I’ve had it for years. That was my weapon. My firearm. I had the legal right to own it and to keep it hidden.”
Motley, Grosskreutz’s attorney, said Rittenhouse had no right to his gun. He is accused of possessing a dangerous weapon under the age of 18.
Grosskreutz said he never used his gun that night, even after he was shot.
The last patient he looked after was himself, says Grosskreutz
Grosskreutz said he didn’t expect that the last patient he would treat that night would be himself.
Grosskreutz said he used his own ambulance bag and with the help of CJ Halliburton, who broadcast the entire incident live but stopped to help Grosskreutz, he was able to have a tourniquet on his arm before police drove him to the hospital.
“That was a serious wound. If I hadn’t had my training and the right equipment … to treat a gunshot wound, I might not be here to do this interview,” said Grosskreutz
He described a chaotic scene that night in front of the gunfire. Buildings were damaged and fires were started by those involved in the protests.
He said the police used tear gas and rubber bullets.
Before filming, the video shows how the police are friends with Rittenhouse and give him water.
“And then at some point they gave the shooter water and said they appreciated the shooter,” he said of the police, referring to a video from the scene before the shooting.
Motley said it was fault to be responsible for Rittenhouse’s actions, including law enforcement agencies for not preventing him from leaving; Facebook for not removing posts from the Kenosha Guard event; the person who gave the gun to Rittenhouse; and anyone who helped Rittenhouse cross state lines after shooting several people.
“While (Rittenhouse) may have pulled the trigger, there are certainly a lot of people who put bullets into this gun,” Motley said.
When asked why officials didn’t stop Rittenhouse from leaving the scene, Kenosha Sheriff David Beth told reporters that tunnel vision can occur in high stress environments such as the night of August 25.
Grosskreutz said he and his family, including his 65-year-old grandmother, have received online death threats from people who support Rittenhouse.
“None of this is true, at least what people have said to me about their assumptions,” he said. “I’m not an Antifa terrorist organizer. I’m a 22-year-old man. I go to school. And yes, I exercise my first adjustment right to protest peacefully.”
Grosskreutz is still being treated by doctors in the same hospital where Jacob Blake is being treated for his gunshot wounds.
Rittenhouse is in prison in Illinois. He is on an extradition hearing on September 25th to be sent back to Wisconsin, where charges have been brought against him.
“Sagittarius went away and fell asleep in their bed that night. Some people didn’t get this luxury – two people that night, myself (too), didn’t get this luxury,” said Grosskreutz.
Grosskreutz stared at the floor with tears in his eyes.
“I’m going through a tough day, but like I said, I’m a strong person,” he said. “But everyone hurts in one way or another. I went away with my life that night, but two people didn’t.”