A Florida man who shot and killed a black teenager in a dispute over loud music defended himself in court at a racially-charged trial which has revived memories of a notorious case that gripped the United States last year.
The murder trial of Michael Dunn has drawn comparisons to that of neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was cleared of killing teenager Trayvon Martin after claiming self-defence under Florida’s controversial ‘stand your ground’ law.
Dunn, 47, who is white, insisted he was in fear for his life when he opened fire on a red sport utility vehicle after exchanging words with the black teenagers inside when he asked them to turn their music down.
“I was just going ‘oh my God, where is all this hostility coming from?’” Dunn told the court as he described seeing one of the teens pull out what looked to him like a shotgun.
Police did not find evidence of a gun in the vehicle and the three surviving teens testified that they never threatened Dunn.
Dunn insisted he was “in a panic” when he yanked his pistol out of his glove box as one of the teens started to get out of their car and come towards him.
“This is the point where he is coming to kill me, coming to beat me,” Dunn testified. “He made it quite clear what his intentions were.” Dunn said he kept firing as the sport utility drove away because he was afraid that he or his fiancé — who had rushed out of the gas station shop when she heard the shots — might get hit by returning fire.
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.’
Dunn testified that he had no idea that he had shot and killed Jordan Davis, 17, until he saw a news alert on his phone once he got back to his hotel.
He explained that he did not immediately contact local police because he wanted to get the advice of a neighbour who works in law enforcement and was convinced it was an open and shut case of self-defence.
Unlike Zimmerman — who did not face charges for weeks after claiming self-defence in the shooting of an unarmed teenager — Dunn was arrested and charged with murder the day after the shooting. He has been held in jail pending his trial.