A man accused of shooting dead a teenage boy over loud rap music took the stand today in his own defense and claimed that he feared for his life on the night of the attack.
Michael Dunn, 47, is being tried on one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of firing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle tied to the November 23, 2012 shooting that killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida.
Dunn testified that prior to the shooting, he believed he was in grave danger from the men parked next to him in an SUV. He told jurors: ‘I thought I was going to be killed.’
The software developer also revealed that he said: ”’You’re not going to kill me you son of a b****” and I shot him.’
Dunn added: ‘I had every right of self-defense and I took it.’
Defense attorney Cory Strolla called Dunn as the first witness on Tuesday. Dunn described the night that he and fiancée Rhonda Rouer pulled up at a gas station following his son’s wedding to pick up some wine.
Dunn, dressed in a white shirt, green sweater and tie, choked up during the questioning on Tuesday when he discussed his fiancée and their dog Charlie.
On the night of the fatal gas station shooting, Dunn said the music from a red Dodge Durango parked next to him grew ‘really loud’ after his fiancée went into the store.
‘My review mirror was shaking, my eardrums were vibrating. It was ridiculously loud,’ Dunn said.
‘I said, ”Can you turn that down please?”’ he testified. ‘They turned it off. I said thank you.’
Dunn claimed that the music had not made him angry but described it as ‘rap c***’ and ‘obnoxiously loud’.
The young men in the Durango soon began using expletives, the word ‘cracker’ and then turned the volume back up, Dunn claimed.
‘I start hearing things like F-him and F-that,’ Dunn said. ‘It was mean-spirited.
‘When they turned the music on the second time i wasn’t going to ask them for any more favors again.
‘Now it got ugly. I had no reaction–I’m looking forward and hoping Rhonda comes out [of the store].
‘Now there’s thumping bass and he’s yelling over the bass. I hear ”I should kill that m***********.”’
‘I’m flabbergasted. Now I’m paying attention to what they are saying. Then I hear in a more elevated voice: ”I should f****** kill, that m**********.”’
Dunn added: ‘At this point, I think I should try and deescalate this.’
Dunn then claims that a young man, identified as Jordan Davis, who was seated in the rear of the car, bent down and appeared to pick up something by his feet.
The accused said that at this point, he did not reach for his pistol stored in the glove compartment of his car.
Dunn said Davis ‘came back up and slammed whatever it was against the door’.
He said: ‘I saw sticking above the windowsill about four inches of a barrel. It was a thump I heard against the door. It looked like a 12-gauge or maybe 20-gauge [shotgun].’
Dunn testified: ‘I was in fear for my life and I was stunned. I’ve never been threatened, let alone threatened with a firearm. I was incredulous–I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing.’
The accused said that Davis began to get out of the car and yelled at him: ‘This s*** is going down now.’
Dunn said: ‘This is the point where my death is imminent, he made it very clear what his intentions were. I’ve never been in that position.’
The defense attorney, Cory Strolla, told the jury in his opening statement that Dunn opened fire only after seeing what looked like the barrel of a gun or a lead pipe through the Durango’s back passenger window and that he was acting in self-defense as Davis was about to get out of the car.
Police found no weapon in the Durango after the shooting.
During cross-examination, prosecutor John Guy challenged Dunn’s assertion that he had told his fiancee after the shooting that he thought one of the teens had a gun.
‘You never told the love of your life that those guys had a gun,’ Guy said. ‘Did you?’
Dunn responded: ‘You were not there.’
Guy challenged Dunn on other parts of his story, citing letters Dunn had written from jail and interviews with investigators. The prosecutor said Dunn had told detectives the day after the shooting that it could have been a stick he saw pointing from the vehicle. But Dunn countered he was just suggesting a far-fetched possibility.
Guy also suggested that Dunn was angry because he was being disrespected by a young black man. Dunn responded: ‘I was being threatened, not disrespected.’
The prosecutor also said Dunn had stated in a jailhouse letter that his car was parked so close to the SUV that it would have been hard for him to exit.
Guy said that mean Davis also would have had a hard time getting out of the SUV.
‘Jordan Davis was never a threat to you, was he, Mr. Dunn?’ Guy said.
Dunn responded: ‘Absolutely, he was.’
Dunn admitted that he did not call 911 after the shooting because he was in a ‘panic’ and had ‘tunnel vision’.
Instead, Dunn told the jury that he and Rhonda Rouer had returned to their hotel in Jacksonville, he had taken their dog Charlie out to use the bathroom, ordered a pizza, had a drink and watched some TV.
The 47-year-old said that he was not in a rational state of mind when he made these decisions instead of going to the police.
Dunn said he was looking on his phone for news of a shooting. Guy asked: ‘Did you cry when the news came on and you found out the boy was killed?’
The accused replied: ‘I don’t recall.’
When asked why he did not report the shooting to police the next day–but instead drove two hours home with his dog and his fiancée – Dunn explained: ‘Whether I called that night or 2 weeks later it wasn’t going to change it from self defense to murder.’
He added: ‘It didn’t matter to me that I had killed a 17-year-old boy in self-defense.’
Dunn said that he managed to pull the gun ten times because he was in ‘sheer panic’.
Ronald Davis, the father of a teenager, testified on Monday about his shock and horror after learning of the fatal shooting.
Jurors also learned that Jordan died from a single bullet wound to his chest that severed his aorta.
Dunn fired nine times after getting into an argument with Jordan and his friends over the rap music blasting from their SUV.
The racially-charged case has sparked comparisons to the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Jordan was black; Dunn is white.
Mr Davis, Jordan’s father, said he told detectives days after his son’s death that he was horrified to learn of how the boy had died.
‘I think I said at the time that I was shocked that my son was killed,’ Mr Davis said.
Prosecutors had hoped Mr Davis could testify about a conversation he had with the three other teens who were in his son’s SUV at the time of the shooting.
However, legal wrangling by Dunn’s defense meant Mr Davis was able to make only that statement.
Associate medical examiner Stacey Simons testified on Monday that the first bullet that hit Davis in the abdomen likely killed him. The bullet went from his lower right abdomen, into his diaphragm, through his liver and hit his aorta, she said.
‘I believe it would have been fatal within a matter of minutes,’ Simons said.
Under cross-examination, Simons said it was unlikely Davis was standing up when he was shot.
Dunn’s defense attorney, Cory Strolla, had argued in opening statements that Davis had threatened Dunn with a 4-inch knife.
Simons said the bullet appeared to have struck something hard, like a car door, before hitting Davis.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst Sukhan Warf said toxicology tests on Davis showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in his body.
Another law enforcement department analyst, Maria Pagan, testified earlier in the day about the steps Dunn took before shooting the teen, bolstering prosecutors’ contention that he acted with premeditations.
Dunn would have had to remove the gun from its holster, load the chamber with a bullet and then apply six pounds of pressure to fire it, Pagan said.
Dunn fired the gun 10 times, hitting the SUV nine times, and he would have had to pull the trigger every time using more than six pounds of pressure each time, Pagan said.
Pagan answered affirmatively when prosecutor Angela Corey asked, ‘Does that take a conscious effort of the shooter to have a second-round come out?’
The first witness to testify for the defense was Randy Berry, a friend of Dunn. He said he never knew Dunn to be violent. Berry’s wife, Beverly Berry, also testified that she had never seen Dunn with anything but a calm demeanor.
Dunn had been at his son’s wedding before the shooting. Dunn’s ex-wife, Phyllis Molinaro, and son, Chris Dunn, told jurors that Dunn didn’t appear drunk and was in good spirits at the wedding.
The defense attorney also called Davis’ father to ask him what he recalled in the days after the shooting.
‘I think I said at the time that I was shocked that my son was killed,’ Ronald Davis said.
Prosecutors rested their case on Monday. Defense attorney Strolla rested his case on Tuesday.