In my local paper today.
I stopped shooting when he stopped coming'
Defendant in murder trial claims self defense
February 01, 2011 0800 PM
CHRIS OLWELL / News Herald Writer
PANAMA CITY — Steven Thompson came out of room 216 of the Summer Breeze Motel in Panama City Beach with blood on his face and upper body after he shot his friend and co-worker Nicholas Barter. Moments earlier, Erica Allwell, who was also staying at the motel on July 17, 2009, heard a man shout “No, man. Stop. Don’t do this.”
For 15 minutes before Barter was killed by two shots from Thompson’s 9 mm Berretta, Allwell heard banging and fighting. After the shots, Thompson came out and asked her to call 911 because he’d just shot his friend.
“He seemed scared, nervous, upset, shaken,” Allwell said of Thompson’s demeanor following the shooting.
Allwell’s testimony from the first day of Thompson’s trial on a second-degree murder charge was contrasted by the statements Thompson made to investigators that night.
Thompson said he shot Barter in self-defense after the two men engaged in mutual combat in their room. Thompson told investigators he pinned Barter to the floor by his throat and retreated into a corner of the motel room, but when Barter got back on his feet and charged at him Thompson feared he would beat him to death in that room, he told police.
“He was closing in on me. It was time to make a decision,” Thompson said, saying Barter was two feet away when he shot. “I stopped shooting when he stopped coming.”
In his recorded statement to police, which was played in court Tuesday, Thompson sounded emotional when an interviewer told him Barter was dead. Thompson had been punched in the face a couple times during the fight, he told police, but “I’ll live.”
Thompson’s version of the events that night was contradicted by testimony from Michael Hunter, the 14th Judicial Circuit medical examiner, who performed the autopsy on Barter’s body. Hunter said he found no evidence of stippling—small burns that result from being shot at close range—on Barter’s body.
Hunter also examined the body for evidence of injuries to Barter’s knuckles that would indicate Barter had punched something and found none. Instead, Barter’s injuries were consistent with those of someone trying to defend themselves from assault, Hunter said. There was evidence Barter had been strangled and sustained injuries from several blows to the head.
Prosecutor John O’Brien showed the jury photos of the hole in Barter’s hand where a bullet passed through before entering his chest and piercing his heart. The jury saw photos of Barter’s heart and his bloodied face.
Barter was highly intoxicated, according to his fiancée Jessica Todd, who had argued with Barter over the telephone before his death. Toxicology results indicated Barter’s blood alcohol content was .20.
The trial is expected to conclude Wednesday.