By Susan Cooper Eastman
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida man who shot and killed a teenager during an argument over loud rap music told jurors on Tuesday that he did "nothing wrong," having acted in self-defense because he thought he was "going to be killed."
"I was in fear of my life and I was probably stunned," said Michael Dunn, 47, after taking the witness stand where he broke down in tears several times.
Dunn is being tried in state court 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.
Dunn told the jury he opened fire because he thought Davis had a shotgun and was exiting his car to kill him.
"I thought I was going to be killed," he said.
Under cross examination Dunn was asked why he fired 10 shots, the last three after getting out of his car as the teens drove away.
"This was a panic moment ... I was in sheer terror," he said.
The incident occurred at a Jacksonville, Florida gas station, where Dunn and his fiancée stopped to buy white wine on the way back to their hotel after attending the wedding of Dunn's son.
Dunn, dressed in a white shirt, green sweater and tie, said the music from a red Dodge Durango parked at the same gas station 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."
But Dunn said the young men in the Durango soon began using expletives and then turned the volume back up.
"I was in fear for my life, but I wasn't to the point where I was ready to use deadly force. I was just going, 'Oh my God, where is all this hostility coming from?'" Dunn said.
Dunn said he 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 Davis was about to get out of the car.
"As his (Davis's) head clears the window frame, he said ‘this shit's going down now,'" Dunn testified.
Prosecutors later asked his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer, if Dunn ever mentioned seeing a gun in the teens car.
Rouer's answer, as she fought back tears, was "No."
Police found no weapon in the Durango after the shooting.
Prosecutors on Monday showed the jury photos of Davis's body and a medical examiner said he was leaning away from Dunn when the fatal bullet entered his body.
The case has drawn comparisons with the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. In both cases, the victims were unarmed black teenagers killed by men who said they believed their lives were in danger.
Dunn choked up during his testimony when he talked about his bulldog, and when he described worrying that his fiancée might get hurt.
"Then it was two lives," he said tearing up.
But he remained poised when testifying about killing Davis, describing his sense of a "clear and present danger" and his fear of "imminent death" in language important to a claim of self defense.
On the drive home, Dunn said he tried to reassure his fiancée that they were in no trouble with police. "We might be in trouble with the local gangsters," he said he told her.
"I knew I had done nothing wrong," Dunn said.
(Additional reporting and writing by Barbara Liston; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, David Adams, Gunna Dickson and Tom Brown)
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