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Lawyer says man fired in self-defense in fatal fight

December 06, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Attorneys agreed Monday in Washington County Circuit Court that Boni Facio Aramburo fatally shot a man in April during a fistfight, but they argued about whether the fatal blast was fired in self-defense.

Opening statements were made and nearly 20 witnesses testified during the first day of Aramburo's trial on a charge of second-degree murder and related charges in Terrance "T.J." Johnson's April 5 death.

Johnson, 35, was shot once in the chest shortly before 8 p.m. in Court 4 of the Noland Village housing complex after he jumped into a fight between Aramburo, 21, and Ernest Davis, aka "Poncho."

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Aramburo's attorney, Stephen H. Sacks, didn't deny that his client shot Johnson, but he argued the shot was fired in self-defense. He said a gun fell to the ground during the fight and his client picked it up and fired it to protect himself.

Sacks said Aramburo "was not looking for a confrontation, not looking to get in a fight that day," but was egged on by Davis, who was harassing him, "threatening him throughout the day."

Davis approached Aramburo and threw the first blow, Sacks asserted. Johnson, Davis' friend, jumped into the fight, and shortly afterward, "a gun fell to the ground," Sacks said.

Sacks said Aramburo saw the gun fall to the ground, and Sacks equated the scenario to an old Western, in which two cowboys stretch to grab a gun slung loose, either to defend themselves or to prevent the other person from getting it.

"It's not reasonable to think if a gun is lying on the ground that he's gonna wait for someone else to pick up the gun and use it in the fight," Sacks said.

The shot was fired within six inches of Johnson's chest, Sacks said.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark Boyer argued that Aramburo could have left the fight and didn't need to elevate the confrontation to gunfire.

"It was a fistfight," Boyer said. "The defendant's girlfriend and her infant son were just a few feet away watching the fight ... Was it reasonable to believe that death or serious injury would result out of this fight?"

Boyer told the jurors that in order for a self-defense defense to apply, the defendant has to show he couldn't get away from the altercation.

Several witnesses Monday testified that Davis started the fight. Noland Village residents Patricia Oliver and Tina Kuhn testified that the day of the shooting was the first nice day of the season and several people were out in the courtyard enjoying the weather. Aramburo and his girlfriend, Tiara Parson, who had dated Davis, were walking around the housing complex's courtyards, pushing a stroller throughout the afternoon, Oliver testified. Davis, who she testified had been drinking, taunted Aramburo, she said.

Later in the day, Davis started a fight "in the middle of the parking lot" with Aramburo and seemed to be winning the fight when, "next thing you know, T.J. jumped in," Oliver testified.

At no time before the shot was fired, she testified, had anyone fallen to the ground. She testified she did not see who dropped the gun.

"Then you heard the two ... pap, pap," she testified, describing the blast.

Hagerstown Police Department Officer Michelle Deavers testified that she was the first officer to respond to the shooting. When she arrived, Johnson was lying on his side in a yard and "there was blood all over his face, mouth and nose," she said. She testified she detected no pulse.

Davis, wearing a white T-shirt on which "We miss you T.J." was hand-drawn, testified that Aramburo started the fight. He trembled at times while testifying about the events immediately surrounding Johnson's death. He said Aramburo was making "disrespectful gestures" to him regarding "oral sex" througout the day.

Davis testified that he was probably holding the victim when he was shot and was by his side before paramedics arrived.

Sacks questioned Davis' credibility, calling to jurors' attention his past convictions for misdemeanor theft and possession with intent to distribute drugs. He alleged Davis only tells the truth to protect himself.

Sacks questioned Davis about the fight and asked at what point the gun fell to the ground.

"I didn't see nothin' fall from nobody," Davis testified.

Sacks asked him, "What would have stopped you from hitting him?"

"If I didn't stop, he'd be hitting me," Davis testified.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael, on redirect examination, asked Davis whether he gave police his real name and the names of those involved in the fight that night. Davis said that he did.

Davis testified that the fight was nothing more than a fistfight and that he didn't even injure his knuckles.

"If he wanted to run, I'd let him go. I wasn't gonna chase him down the street," he testified.

A Hagerstown Police Department officer and Maryland State Police trooper testified that Aramburo was found about 17 minutes after the shooting in the area of Cumberland Valley Veterinary Clinic and was arrested after a couple of witnesses identified him as the shooter.

Officer Tom Bartles testified that Aramburo was sweating profusely at the time of his arrest.

A .22-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun was found in the 600 block of Marion Street, Hagerstown Police Department Lt. Michael King testified. Residents in that area testified they saw a man driving a maroon Ford Explorer erratically in their neighborhood before the weapon was found.

Oliver and other witnesses testified Aramburo drove a maroon Ford Explorer.

Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, who is presiding over the trial, said testimony should resume today at 9:15 a.m.

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