FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The man at the center of a ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense is giving his version of what led to a deadly shooting four years ago in Pembroke Pines.
James Wonder, 69, is trying to convince a judge he feared for his life when he shot and killed Border Protection agent Donald Pettit.
Wonder testified about his encounter with Pettit on August 5, 2008, taking the stand Monday afternoon in a Broward Courtroom.
Wonder first described himself as frail from the effects of kidney failure and dialysis treatment that he had undergone since he was diagnosed with renal failure in 2005.
In his words, he could not take a beating which he feared Pettit was going to inflict on him.
The ordeal began Wonder said when he noticed a driver in a black Dodge Charger just ‘inches from his back bumper’ as he drove to the post office. He says he changed lanes and then exchanged an obscene gesture with the driver.
At that point investigators say Pettit followed Wonder into the Pembroke Pines post office parking lot.
Wonder says when Pettit got out of his car and confronted him.
“He was screaming at the top of his lungs and cursing. He said who do you think you are slick,” testified Wonder. “He was charging me like a football player and never stopped. I thought he would beat me and kill me.”
Wonder said he did not know Pettit was a federal agent and claimed he didn’t know that Pettit’s 12 year old daughter was in the back seat of his car.
He testified that he went into panic mode after the shooting because he claimed, “I never shot anybody before.”
Wonder said he went home and then tried to go to a dialysis appointment but his blood pressure was so high they refused to treat him.
He told the judge he never called police because once he realized that hundreds of law enforcement officers were looking for him, he didn’t feel he would survive a takedown.
During the hearing, prosecutors portrayed Wonder as a man with a vile temper who was despondent over his failing health. They say he acted like a guilty man, slicking his hair to a different color and renting a car to go to a dialysis appointment the next days.
Prosecutors plan to call several witnesses to testify.
The case is expected to wrap the end of the week.
Afterwards a judge will decide if Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law applies in this case. If he agrees then Wonder will be a free man.
However if he decides it does not apply then Wonder will go to trial on a manslaughter charge.