Durham murder suspect says charges 'false and vicious'

jwise@newsobserver.comApril 29, 2013 

— Murder suspect Gabriel James Gamez said he thought he was about to be shot when he opened fire on a group of teenage football players in a Durham parking lot.

Gamez spoke on his own behalf Monday, concluding testimony and evidence presentation in the trial after six days. Attorneys’ closing arguments are due to begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Gamez, 24, is accused of first-degree murder in the June 23, 2011, death of Darrell Turner Jr., 18, a high-school football player from Pennsylvania, after an angry exchange near the intersection of Mount Moriah Road and Chapel Hill Boulevard..

He is also accused of attempted murder in the shooting of Turner’s teammate, Thomas Woodson, then 16, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill four other members of the team.

“These false and vicious allegations must be addressed,” said Gamez, who says he acted in self-defense.

On Monday, he testified that he drew his weapon, a 40-caliber Glock handgun, and began firing after one of the players gestured as if he were about to draw a handgun Gamez said he saw tucked into his waistband.

“I thought I was about to be shot,” Gamez said, who was calm and spoke in a quiet voice throughout his testimony.

He denied that he was trying to hurt anyone.

The only spent bullet casings found at the scene were from Gamez’s handgun, according to earlier testimony.

The football players, from Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa., were spending the night at a Durham hotel, en route to visit colleges and attend a camp in Florida.

Gamez, from San Antonio, Tex., said he was a security officer with the Texas Department of Public Safety and had come to Durham for a family funeral. He and his mother were staying at hotel near the one where the players were.

On the witness stand Monday, he said he was walking to his hotel from the Outback Steakhouse when he encountered two groups walking in the opposite direction.

He described both groups as “loud” and “out of control,” and said he moved away from them and ducked his head to avoid looking at them.

“I didn’t want them to notice me. I didn’t want any trouble,” Gamez said. He said those in the second group were “huge,” and that he weighs about 140 pounds.

After the second group passed him, Gamez said he felt something hit the back of his head and heard laughter. He turned, saw the second group pointing at him and laughing, and saw a chunk of ice on the ground. When he asked who had thrown the ice and why, “the departed” (Turner) threw a cup at him, he said. There followed an exchange of name-calling and the group began advancing toward him.

One of the group pulled up his shirt to reveal the butt of a gun, Gamez said, and he heard Turner say, “Guess we’ll have to fight him.” After hesitating, Gamez said, he pulled his own gun and began firing while running backward. He stopped firing when he saw the others running away, Gamez said, and did not see anyone appear injured.

“Things got a little weird there. I remember waking up inside the hotel … covered in sweat, crying. I was trembling really bad, my stomach was in knots,” Gamez said. Some hours later, after unsuccessfully trying to call his mother, Gamez said he got a phone call from a police inspector who told him officers were outside his door.

After dressing and “ingesting” some marijuana he had bought earlier in the evening from an employee at the Outback Steakhouse restaurant, Gamez said, he opened the room door and was arrested. At that time, he said, he did not know anyone had been injured by his gunfire.

Gamez denied using racial slurs in his exchange with the group, which several of the players claimed he had in testimony last week. He also denied making racist remarks to employees at the Outback Steakhouse, also reported by earlier witnesses.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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