Joshua Ziminski is the man who has come up the most in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial who has never been called to the witness stand.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense has called Ziminski, despite his proximity to the first shooting, of Joseph Rosenbaum. He features prominently in the prosecution’s argument, which the defense team denies, that Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum to chase him.
Ziminski has not spoken out, and he’s facing serious charges in the Wisconsin court system due to his own involvement in the events of that night in August 2020.
Rittenhouse, now 18, is charged with the shooting deaths of Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, along with other charges. He is on trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The case was scheduled for closing arguments on November 15, 2021. Ziminski is sometimes known as Alex Blaine. His wife was with him that night.
Watch closing arguments here:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Prosecutors Say Rittenhouse Provoked Rosenbaum by Pointing a Gun at Ziminski, Who Was Also Armed
Prosecutors asked Judge Bruce Schroeder to allow them to claim that Rittenhouse pointed his rifle at Ziminski first, while they believe Ziminski was vandalizing cars. Rosenbaum then gave chase, cornering Rittenhouse near cars in a parking lot. Testimony and video shows that Rittenhouse turned and fired, killing Rosenbaum.
A medical examiner testified that Rosenbaum was no more than four feet away when first shot, and the second shot occurred either when his hand was in contact with or in close proximity to Rittenhouse’s gun. Wisconsin self-defense laws require Rittenhouse to show he reasonably believed he was about to suffer imminent death or great bodily harm. However, provocation would add a few extra self-defense hurdles. He would have to show that he exhausted all avenues for escape and gave Rosenbaum adequate notice that he was withdrawing from the confrontation.
In court on November 12, 2021, Schroeder agreed to give jurors this instruction over the objections of the defense. Defense attorneys say that Rittenhouse did not point his gun at Ziminski, who was armed, and they say that the prosecution’s evidence — photos and a drone video — are too blurry and unclear to tell. They claim that Rittenhouse held his rifle in his other hand from that seen in the image in the video and photos. Here is a prosecution photo:
Prosecutors are also using this defense exhibit to try to prove provocation.
Conservative political journalist Jack Posobiec claimed that an FBI infrared video shows the image glowing, meaning it couldn’t be the rifle because infrared picks up body heat. Others have claimed a white blur in one of the prosecution’s photos was there before Rittenhouse entered the frame.
This entire dispute was expected to make up a large portion of closing arguments on November 15.
Ziminski was captured on video throughout the night of the shooting in August 2020.
Read the jury instructions on provocation in Wisconsin courts here.
“I understand why this instruction is problematic for the defense and their version of events, pointing a gun, which is in the evidence is provocation,” prosecutor Jim Kraus said in court.
Defense attorney Mark Richards countered, “He [Rittenhouse] is walking, Rosenbaum and Ziminski are lighting a garbage can on fire, he [Rosenbaum] seems him [Rittenhouse] walking down the street with a fire extinguisher, there are fires down at Car Source. Rosenbaum goes down and lies in wait.”
2. Ziminski Fired a Gun in the Air & Was Involved in Vandalism That Night, Prosecutors Say
Ziminksi fired his handgun into the air when he was about 100 feet away from Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum, according to the Racine Journal Times. The newspaper reported that Ziminski admitted firing this shot, calling it a “warning shot.” He claimed the gun was stolen.
Three seconds later, Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum. During testimony in court, Rittenhouse claimed that Ziminski threatened him that night before Rosenbaum chased him. He claimed that Ziminski said, “get him” and “kill him.” Rittenhouse is heard on video saying, “friendly, friendly,” around the time of the encounter with Rosenbaum and Ziminski right before the chase, according to court testimony and the video.
Authorities initially charged Ziminski with disorderly conduct but then dismissed that and refiled it to include a more serious arson charge.
The initial criminal complaint alleged that Ziminski was “holding a black handgun” on video that night, “down at his side.”
The complaint describes how the Ziminskis were walking near a fire in the area of a gas station when his arm was seen “pointing upward.” The detective “observed a muzzle flash emit from the handgun and heard a gunshot at the same time.”
Both Ziminski and his wife admitted he fired a “warning shot” in the air, the complaint says. And he said the gun was stolen after the shootings.
Read the criminal complaint here.
After Rosenbaum’s shooting, Rittenhouse ran down the road and fell. He was then rushed by Anthony Huber, who struck him with a skateboard and tried to grab the gun, according to video and court testimony. Rittenhouse shot Huber. He then shot Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived, and who testified that he was advancing on Rittenhouse at close range, three to five feet, and pointed a gun at him when Rittenhouse shot him.
“Joshua Ziminski plays a central role in this scenario on August 25,” defense attorney Mark Richards said in court. “One, creating chaos and havoc with Mr. Rosenbaum, and two, more importantly, when we finally get to Car Source … Mr. Ziminski … fires the first shot that evening, behind Kyle Rittenhouse as he’s being chased by Mr. Rosenbaum.”
“He [expletive] shot him. He [expletive] shot him. He [expletive] shot him … Get his [expletive],” Kelly Ziminski is heard on video after Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum.
According to the Racine Journal Times, a voice identified in court as Joshua J. Ziminski then says, “That dude shot him. That [expletive] just shot that dude. Crazy on that boy, he just shot a man.”
3. Ziminski Is Facing Serious Charges & Has a Lengthy Criminal History
In January 2021, Ziminski was charged with felony arson, disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon and obstructing an officer. Thomas Binger, the Rittenhouse prosecutor, is handling the case. His address was given as Racine, Wisconsin. The arson relates to a dumpster fire that Rosenbaum was also around that night, the Journal Times reported. In opening statements, Rittenhouse’s lawyer said Ziminski and Rosenbaum lit the arson fire together, but it’s not clear how well they knew each other. Kelly Ziminski was accused of throwing lighter fluid on it, according to the Journal Times.
Joshua Ziminski’s case is set for jury selection in January 2022. Cash bond was set at $1,000.
Kelly Ziminski was convicted of a misdemeanor, obstructing an officer, and a curfew violation ticket, according to court records. She received seven months in jail.
Joshua Ziminski has an open case out of Racine from June 2020 for misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct, domestic abuse related, according to court records. A trial is scheduled for December 2021.
A 2020 child support action filed by the state against both parents was dismissed when it was determined that “parties are back together and in the same household.” Another child support action was filed in 2019. There was a paternity action against him in 2016, court records also show.
In 2016, he was found guilty of hit and run in Kenosha, a misdemeanor, according to court records.
He was also subject to a divorce action filed by his previous wife in 2014, court records show. Child custody issues have kept that case active as recently as October 2021. In 2019, court records said, “Mr. Ziminski is self employed. Finding of income for Mr. Ziminski = $1099 GMI (imputed minimum wage).”
Photos on Facebook said they got married in 2014.
In 2005, he was found guilty of marijuana possession and operating while revoked as a habitual offender, court records show. He has a slew of traffic cases.
In 2002, he was charged with robbery with use of force, a felony, but the case was reduced to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, according to court records. He was living in Racine, Wisconsin, at the time.
4. He Wrote About a Troubled Family Background on Facebook
An old Facebook page for Ziminski shows him with numerous children and contains the line, “Went to School of Hard Knocks, The University of Life.”
One photo showed his first wife’s name shaved into the back of his head. “My wife to be getting married 4 th of July weekend,” he wrote.
In 2013, he wrote, “Rip to my new car the monster one I been posting pics of as its been changing hmmm the only thing I ever got from my father now he’s dead he drank himself to death a month ago n ironically I was rear ended two days ago by a skunk drunk driver while sitting at a red light my car is now totaled the trunk is in the back seat the driver jumps out and says I’m drunk call the cops n p***** his pants don’t think he has insurance don’t know yet.”
In 2013, he posted a wad of cash on Facebook and wrote, “Let’s go have fun lol yeaaaa boy life is good.” Some of his posts contain spelling errors: “So bord didn’t go to work today didn’t feel like it.” That same year, he wrote, “So I found out yesterday my father drank himself to death n had been dead for over thirty days before anyone found him fam IM miss u pops sad to say ur grandkids will never know who u r damacio won’t rember u never got to meet kaylob u only seen Justin daughter twice dammit now ur gone.”
In 2013, he threatened another man on Facebook, writing, “when I see you IM beat that a** u b**** a** p**** u think it tough talking s*** to a woman f**.” Another time he wrote, “Kenosha lame as f***.”
In 2013, he wrote, “Wanna say what’s up to all my old ruff ryder bros and SIS … It’s Gona be a good summer this year miss being a ruff ryder sometimes but ill tell ya yall know where I’m at now n I wouldn’t give up my vest for nothing see yall in the steets mad love to my old Fam … Ruff Ryders!!!!!!!!!!” He has a second Facebook page but the top post is from 2011. Neither page shows an interest in protest activity.
5. Neither Ziminski Was Called to Testify in the Rittenhouse Trial
The prosecution is trying to prove that Rittenhouse pointed a gun at Ziminski to show provocation from photo and video evidence that the defense says is too blurry to be determinative.
However, the state never called either Ziminski to the witness stand to testify to that, a decision that remains unexplained. Defense attorney Mark Richards questioned why Joshua Ziminski wasn’t called, alleging in court that the prosecution considers Ziminski to be a liar.
“All they had to do was call Mr. and Mrs. Ziminski,” said defense attorney Mark Richards of the prosecutors. “They didn’t put them on, because (the two detectives) both know he’s a liar. They don’t have the provocation.” But the prosecution insisted, “There’s plenty evidence the state has provided that he (Rittenhouse) raised his gun.”