Trevor Dooley was reaching for what appeared to be a gun in his waistband when a man he was arguing with on a Valrico basketball court rushed up to defend himself, a witness told jurors today.
The testimony came from Michael Whitt, who was playing tennis two years ago at the Twin Lakes recreational park when he saw the scuffle that led to the shooting death of 41-year-old David James.
"I saw something. An object," said Whitt, a prosecution witness. "I didn't know what it was at that particular point. Later, I realized it was the butt of a pistol. I didn't make it out until he pulled it out, and when they came together, I saw he had a gun."
Dooley, 71, is standing trial on charges of aggravated manslaughter in the Sept. 26, 2010, slaying during a dispute over a skateboarder at the park.
After nearly five hours of testimony from forensic experts about gunpowder residue and DNA evidence, today's court proceedings took a dramatic turn when prosecutors called Whitt to the stand.
Whitt, an office equipment salesman, said he went to the Twin Lakes tennis court to help his wife Michelle on her serve.
The only other people in the park that afternoon was James, shooting hoops with his 8-year-old daughter Danielle, and a boy skateboarding on the other half of the basketball court, Whitt said.
Dooley, who lives across the street from the courts, started yelling at the boy to stop skateboarding because it wasn't allowed in the park, Whitt said.
Here's what happened next, according to Whitt's testimony:
James told Dooley to leave the boy alone because he wasn't bothering anybody. Dooley shook his head, walked into his garage then reappeared a few minutes later, crossing the street to confront James.
The two men continued to argue and their voices grew louder. Dooley cursed at James, flipped up his T-shirt beyond the waistband and turned around.
Whitt said he heard James say something like, "Don't cuss at me and show me a gun in front of my kid." James took a few steps forward to make sure Dooley heard him.
Dooley turned around and "his right hand was moving to his waist," Whitt said. At that point, James "rushed him," Whitt said, placing his right hand on Dooley's gun to prevent the man from raising it and his left hand on Dooley's shoulder.
The men wrestled for the gun and both fell on the ground with James on top of Dooley.
"That's when the gun went off," Whitt said.
James managed to look up at Whitt and said, "Call 911. I've been shot." James then rolled off Dooley and died.
"He was shot directly in the heart," Whitt said.
During his opening statements Wednesday, defense attorney Ronald Tulin said it was Dooley who was defending himself from James.
James told Dooley not to turn his back because James was not through with him, Tulin said.
It was James who spun Dooley around, Tulin said. Dooley took his gun out of his pocket and pointed it at the ground. James forced Dooley to the ground, straddled him and began choking him with one hand, Tulin said.
Before the trial, Dooley unsuccessfully sought immunity from prosecution under the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.
The trial continues Friday.