A Florida woman testified Saturday that her fiancée, who is on trial for murder, used a racially charged word to complain about loud music before gunning down a black teen sitting in an SUV.
Michael Dunn fatally shot 17-year-old Jordan Davis in November 2012 during a dispute at a Jacksonville gas station, but the 47-year-old man claims the shooting was in self-defense.
Dunn was charged with first-degree murder, and he was also charged with the attempted murders of three other people in the SUV with Davis the day after Thanksgiving.
Rhonda Rouer testified that she and Dunn were on their way to a hotel after drinking rum and cokes at Dunn’s son’s wedding when they pulled into a convenience store parking lot, where they heard loud music coming from a Dodge Durango.
“I hate that ‘thug’ music,” she recalled Dunn saying. Some people consider the term, “thug,” to be a euphemism for another racial slur.
Prosecutors said Dunn told the teen to turn down his music while Rouer went into the store, and the pair exchanged curse words, and defense attorneys claimed Davis got out of his car with some sort of weapon.
Dunn fired at least 10 shots at the SUV with four teens inside, killing Davis.
The teens then sped off, stopping about 100 yards away, and defense attorneys argued that this gave them ample time to dispose of a weapon.
No weapon was ever located, and defense attorneys have alleged that investigators failed to properly secure the crime scene.
The other teens in the car said they never heard Davis threaten Dunn, but defense attorneys say the music was too loud for them to have heard anything.
Dunn and Rouer returned to their hotel after the shooting and ordered some pizza, and she said they learned the teen had died the following day from TV news.
Rouer said she insisted they return home to Satellite Beach to look after their dog and not call police, but both Dunn and Rouer were arrested on their way back to Brevard County after witnesses provided partial license plate information to authorities.
“I thought we needed to go home and get Charlie [the dog] settled,” Rouer told police after their arrest. “It was a horrible trip home.”
She was not charged in the case.
Jurors had asked to continue hearing testimony Sunday, after hearing from 22 witnesses in three days, but the judge called for a day off to allow attorneys additional time to prepare.
All three teens who were with Davis have testified, in addition to other witnesses who were at the gas station at the time of the shooting and police officers who responded to the shooting.
Prosecutors are expected to call a medical examiner to testify that Davis was still in the SUV and leaning away from Dunn when he was shot and killed.
The state attorney’s office released letters written by Dunn from jail that referred to Davis and other black people as thugs.
“The jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs,” Dunn wrote to his daughter. “This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these f*cking idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”
Legal experts have speculated that Dunn, who has already settled a civil suit with Davis’ family for an undisclosed sum, will testify on his own behalf to counter prosecution witnesses who have said the shooting was unprovoked.
They said the case is dissimilar to the fatal February 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted on murder and voluntary manslaughter charges, because there was physical evidence of a struggle that bolstered the claim of self-defense.
“In Zimmerman we had an ongoing argument and altercation,” said attorney Mark O’Mara, who represented the neighborhood watch volunteer. “We had physical evidence of a fight. We had an extended period of time of that fight. In the Dunn case we have none of that.”
Watch this video report posted online by CBS Evening News: