JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Florida man accused of killing a 17-year-old after a dispute over loud music testified Tuesday that he felt threatened but tried to remain calm as the teen hurled obscenities at him from inside an SUV in the next parking space.
But Michael David Dunn, on trial for first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder, said Jordan Davis reached down, picked something up and slammed it against the rear-passenger door of the red Dodge Durango where he was sitting. Dunn told the jury he spotted about 4 inches of an object in the window frame that resembled a 12-gauge shotgun — and their dispute over vehicle-rattling rap music escalated.
"After the continued threat of 'You're dead, (expletive)!' now the door opens and this young man gets out. And as his head clears the window frame, he says, 'This (expletive)'s going down now!' " Dunn said from the witness stand, jabbing a pointed finger.
"This is the point where my death is imminent," said the computer programmer and software developer, 47. "He's coming to kill me. He's coming to beat me."
That afternoon after his son's wedding, Dunn reached into his glovebox, unholstered his pistol and opened fire at the Durango, which contained Davis and three other black teenagers. Three bullets struck Davis, who died shortly afterward.
Dunn, also charged with one count of shooting or throwing a deadly missile, took the stand in his defense Tuesday during the trial at the Duval County Courthouse here. He said he drove away from the gas station Nov. 23, 2012, after firing 10 shots at the SUV because he didn't think anyone had been hurt.
He didn't learn that Davis had been killed until hours later.
Assistant State Attorney John Guy said Davis never was a threat to Dunn — and that Dunn merely opened fire after a mouthy teenager showed him disrespect. Dunn said he acted in self-defense because he feared for his life, but prosecutors said no weapon was found in the Durango.
Dunn said he grew up in the Florida Keys, and his right ear suffered hearing loss while he was scuba diving with his father's charter business. So his left ear is sensitive. He labeled the teenagers' rap music "obnoxious" and said it rattled the side window and rear-view mirror of his Volkswagen Jetta.
Rhonda Rouer, Michael Dunn's fiancee, testifies Feb. 8, 2014.(Photo: Bob Mack, AP)
"I had every right of self-defense, and I took it,'' said Dunn, whose testimony and cross-examination began shortly before 10:30 a.m., not ending until about 2:30 p.m., shortly before his lawyer rested his defense. Closing arguments may begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Dunn choked up, fought back tears and wiped his nose with a white cloth when he talked about Rhonda Rouer, his fiancée, and Charlie, their French bulldog puppy they had brought with them to Jacksonville from South Patrick Shores, Fla.
"It was Jordan Davis who kept escalating this to the point where I had no choice but to defend myself. It was life or death," Dunn said during cross-examination.
Dunn is white. Davis was black. The case has drawn comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of another black Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, killed nine months earlier during a struggle with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. A Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder.
Guy told jurors that Dunn lied to detectives during videotaped questioning the afternoon after the shooting. Guy pointed out inconsistencies in the number of drinks Dunn said he consumed earlier that day, whether Dunn saw a second scowling man in the back seat of the Durango, and whether Davis hollered, "This (expletive)'s going down now!" before Dunn grabbed his gun and opened fire.
While questioning Dunn, Guy said that Dunn never mentioned to his girlfriend that he thought he had spotted a shotgun in the SUV. Dunn disagreed, testifying that he told his fiancée multiple times that the teens had a firearm.
"The truth is you never told the love of your life that those boys had a gun," Guy said.
"You weren't there," Dunn replied.
Michael Dunn gestures on the stand Feb. 11, 2014.(Photo: Bob Mack, AP)
But after Dunn finished testifying, Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson called Rouer back to the witness stand. She repeatedly said Dunn made no mention of a shotgun, stick, firearm barrel, lead pipe or weapon inside the Durango during the drive from the gasoline station to their hotel, at the hotel, or during their 2.5-hour drive back home the next morning.
Asked why he never called 911, Dunn said he wanted to return Rouer to the "sanctuary" and "safe harbor" of South Patrick Shores before contacting law enforcement.
"You have to understand, we didn't think anybody was hurt,'' he testified. "We were not in trouble with police. We might be in trouble with the local gangsters but did nothing wrong."
The following morning, a Jacksonville detective contacted Dunn. Dunn told him that he acted in self-defense.
"Again, I knew I had done nothing wrong,'' he said. Dunn said he never attempted to hide his gun, ditch his vehicle, or flee law enforcement during the hours after the shooting. And he had no idea he would be accused of murder.
Jurors watched a redacted version of a videotape of detectives questioning Dunn the afternoon after the shooting. During that interview, Marc Musser, a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office homicide detective, told Dunn that his gunfire nearly struck two other teenagers in the Durango.
"We could very easily have three dead kids at this point," Musser said on the videotape.