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Defendant says 'I was scared for my life'

December 07, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Boni Facio Aramburo bent his knees and turned toward the floor Tuesday in a Washington County Courthouse courtroom, demonstrating for jurors how - in the middle of what became a deadly fight - he found a gun on the ground.

The case against Aramburo, who is charged with second-degree murder and related offenses in the April 5 shooting death of Terrance "T.J." Johnson, will be handed to a Circuit Court jury today for deliberation.

Aramburo, 21, whose address before his arrest was 209 E. 11th St. in Ranson, W.Va., is accused of killing Johnson, 35, after Johnson jumped into a fight between Aramburo and Ernest Davis, aka "Poncho," in a Noland Village courtyard shortly before 8 p.m. on April 5.

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Aramburo's attorney, Stephen H. Sacks, alleged Monday in his opening statement that Aramburo shot Johnson in the chest in self-defense after finding the gun on the ground.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark Boyer told jurors Monday in his opening statement that in order for them to buy Aramburo's self-defense claim they must find that Aramburo could not get away from the fight and that he was not the aggressor in the attack. Boyer asserted that Aramburo did not need to elevate the fistfight into gunfire.

Aramburo took the witness stand Tuesday and told jurors that Davis had taunted him while Aramburo walked with his girlfriend, Tiara Parson, and her infant son, "sayin' he gonna beat me up." Aramburo testified Davis was harassing him about Parson, whom Davis had dated.

Parson testified similarly for the defense about the events Tuesday. She testified she did not see Aramburo with a gun that day.

Aramburo testified that Davis, at one point, "came over all amped" and started to get "in Tiara's face" before he "started poking me in my head, like cussin' me out."

Aramburo "backed up and that's when (Davis) started swinging," he testified. Aramburo testified that he and Davis fought "blow for blow," and at one point Johnson jumped into the fight and "kind of grabbed me on my neck, kinda jumped on my back."

Aramburo testified, "I was scared for my life."

He got down from the witness stand and demonstrated how he was positioned when he spotted the .22-caliber handgun on the ground, at a time he said he was trying to swing at the two men.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael, on cross-examination, questioned how Aramburo was able to shoot Johnson in the heart in the midst of the struggle.

"I didn't know it was the heart," Aramburo testified.

He later testified, "As soon as I picked the gun up off the ground, the gun shot him."

Michael showed Aramburo the transcribed statement he made to police following the shooting. In his statement, Aramburo denied any involvement in the fight or shooting. He told police that the scrapes on his face were caused by a cell phone, with which Parson allegedly hit him. Michael challenged Aramburo's testimony that he was shaken after the shooting and fled but couldn't drive, which is why he abandoned his Ford Explorer and called relatives to pick him up.

"I was scared 'cause I realized the person was shot. I didn't know what was gonna happen next," he testified.

Michael asked, "You were scared you were gonna get caught?"

"Yes, I was," Aramburo said.

Sacks asked Aramburo, hypothetically, if he had been carrying a gun when the fight started, why he would wait until two men fought him before he pulled the trigger.

"If I had a gun on me, I'm gonna pull it out and shoot somebody," Aramburo testified.

Michael told Aramburo he was the only one in the fight with a gun.

"You shot an unarmed man," Michael said.

"I mean, at the time, he was unarmed," Aramburo said. " ... As soon as I picked up the gun, it was like heat of the moment."

Forensic scientist Jeffrey C. Kercheval testified that he tested the gun on fabric to see the range at which Johnson, who died almost immediately after the shooting, was shot.

Kercheval testified that the gun "was greater than two inches, but less than six inches" away from Johnson's chest when fired.

He testified that the bullet hole on Johnson's shirt did not match the bullet hole in Johnson's chest, indicating the shirt had been pulled when the shot was fired.

Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Mike Nickol, a firearms and toolmarks expert examiner, testified that the gun has a mechanism called a hammerblock which prevents it from being fired accidentally.

"For this weapon to discharge, the trigger would have to be pulled to the rear," he testified.

Hagerstown Police Department Detective Steven Hoover testified that he test-fired the gun when Kercheval performed his tests.

"The trigger did not return properly," said Hoover, who had testified about his training and experience with guns.

Hoover testified, "If I did not allow myself to pull the trigger all the way forward, the trigger would misfire."

Sacks said on cross-examination that "a person who knew the weapon and wanted to fire a second shot would know exactly what to do."

Nickol testified that the rounds found in the gun had not been marked in a way that would indicate a misfire.

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