Testifying in his own defense Thursday, a Pine Bluff man said he felt threatened by the man he is accused of killing, particularly after the man "raised up his shirt and showed a gun."
Testifying in his own defense Thursday, a Pine Bluff man said he felt threatened by the man he is accused of killing, particularly after the man “raised up his shirt and showed a gun.”
“I know I saw a gun,” said Michael A. Thomas, 27, who is charged with capital murder in the April 9, 2011, shooting death of Archie Kendrell Kirklin, 24, who was shot three times and was pronounced dead by a doctor in the Emergency Room at Jefferson Regional Medical Center.
The shooting took place just before midnight at the Speedway convenience store at 2504 S. Cherry St. Thomas, who has pleaded innocent, left the scene after the incident and later surrendered to police accompanied by attorney Greg Robinson.
During his opening statement on Wednesday, Robinson said Thomas suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder “based on things that have happened to him and his family over the past year and a half.”
“The trouble started and you don’t even know why, do you?” Robinson asked Thomas on Thursday. Thomas replied “no.”
Asked to describe what happened the night of the shooting, Thomas said he had gone to the convenience store to buy a T-shirt because he and his family were going to a social event in Little Rock.
“You didn’t go shopping much before, did you?” Robinson asked and again Thomas replied “no.”
“I had problems with people threatening me and people bothering me in public places,” Thomas said, going on to say that “one of those people was the man in the store that night.”
Thomas said he bought a shirt while in the store and was confronted by Kirklin. Thomas testified that Kirklin said he “had something waiting for (Thomas) outside,” then pulled up his shirt to show that he was carrying a gun.
“I was scared,” Thomas said. “I’ve been shot at plenty of times, three times in a car and once at home.”
On Wednesday, Robinson said Thomas had been the victim of a drive-by shooting, his house had been set on fire, a car had been firebombed and he had been run off the road by people shooting at him.
Thomas said he saw Kirklin in one of the vehicles from which shots had been fired.
He said after he got outside that he realized he had bought the wrong size shirt and when he went back in to get the right size, he was again confronted by Kirklin. According to Thomas, Kirklin told him to “hurry up and come outside. I’m going to put something on your a**.
“When I walked out that door, I expected to be shot at,” Thomas said.
Store surveillance video showed that Kirklin left the store first, followed by Thomas, who fired three shots while Kirklin was first walking and then running in the direction of the truck Thomas had seen earlier.
“I didn’t intend to hit Kirklin,” Thomas said. “I got out as quick as I could and went to my mother’s house. I don’t know if I hit him and didn’t believe it.”
Thomas said he drove back by the store a short time later and saw an ambulance and police cars.
Questioned by Robinson, Thomas said he had been carrying a gun for “three or four months” before the shooting, and started carrying it after his brother had been shot.
“You did not go into that store looking for trouble did you?” Robinson asked.
“No,” Thomas replied.
“If Kirklin hadn’t threatened you, would you have shot him?” Robinson asked. Again, Thomas said “no.”
During his testimony, Thomas told Robinson that he had been given photos of people that he believed were responsible for shooting at him and setting fire to his house and car, and Deputy Prosecutor Bryan Achorn hammered on that point when he began his cross examination.
“You didn’t take those to the police, did you?” Achorn asked, and Thomas replied “no.”
Achorn also focused on statements that Thomas had made to two psychologists who examined him earlier this year that he felt safe while he was inside the convenience store.
“No one told you to leave,” Achorn said. “You felt like there were people outside who were threatening you, but you thought your best option was to go outside.”
He also questioned Thomas about why he went back in the store to get a second T-shirt, particularly after Kirlklin had reportedly threatened him the first time.
“You had your keys, you had your gun and you had your cell phone and you could have just driven off and gotten away from the guys in the truck,” Achorn said. “Was that T-shirt more important that your own safety?”
That prompted a brief exchange between Robinson and Achorn before Achorn continued to question Thomas.
As he did when he was questioned by Robinson, Thomas told Achorn he “wasn’t trying to hit him (Kirklin) and wasn’t aiming at him.”
Thomas also admitted that he had gotten rid of the weapon used in the slaying between the time of the shooting and the time he turned himself in to police.
That gun has never been recovered.
“You knew if you got caught with the murder weapon, it wouldn’t look good on you, would it?” Achorn asked.
“I was scared and just wanted it out of my hands,” Thomas said.
Earlier Thursday, Christopher Dillard, who was in the store just before the shooting, told defense attorney Erin West he heard Kirklin tell Thomas to “come outside and I’m going to fire you up.
“I had bad feelings,” Dillard said.
Questioned by Achorn, Dillard admitted that he did not contact police after the shooting to give them a statement, and was actually located by a member of Thomas’ family who persuaded him to testify.
Dillard said during his testimony that he and Thomas, whom he knew, exchanged words in the store and Thomas held the door open when Dillard left but Achorn used the store surveillance video to refute that claim, as well as the claim that Dillard heard Kirklin threaten Thomas.
“It (the video) doesn’t show you paying any attention to what’s going on and your back is to them,” Achorn said.
West asked Dillard if he “could hear pretty well,” to which Dillard replied “yes.”
“So you could hear what was said,” West said.
The state has waived the death penalty and if Thomas is convicted of capital murder, he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.