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Published: Thursday, 8/30/2007

Rodriguez testifies he was scared, shot man in self-defense

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rodriguez Rodriguez
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Charles Rodriguez learned from television news that he was being accused of fatally shooting a man on New Year's Eve, he testified yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Mr. Rodriguez recounted his version of a confrontation he had with 22-year-old General Hurst outside the Dairy Mart convenience store on Lagrange Street.

He told the jury of eight men and six women that he encountered Mr. Hurst in the parking lot and responded to the situation after Mr. Hurst lunged at him.

"The next thing, he got to reaching for something, I punched him twice. I said, 'What are you reaching for?'•" he testified in response to questions from defense attorney Don Cameron.

"He was reaching for a gun. I seen him reaching for something. I didn't see a gun yet."

Prosecutors presented a case throughout the first two days of the trial of a fight between Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Hurst over Mr. Rodriguez's girlfriend, who is the mother of his four children. They presented witnesses who saw Mr. Rodriguez, described as a large man, waiting outside the Dairy Mart for Mr. Hurst, who was inside buying beer.

Witnesses testified Tuesday that they saw Mr. Rodriguez "pummeling" Mr. Hurst and the smaller Mr. Hurst fleeing.

They also testified that they saw Mr. Rodriguez shooting a 45-caliber handgun at Mr. Hurst, who died of a gunshot wound to his heart and a lung.

During his testimony, Mr. Rodriguez said he had an understanding with Mr. Hurst that they would "fight on sight," so he was not surprised when Mr. Hurst attacked him, he said.

He also said he knew Mr. Hurst had a gun and so was scared, even though he admitted the smaller man had run away and out of sight.

Because he heard the click of a gun cocking, Mr. Rodriguez said he feared for his life and fired his gun six times until he emptied it of bullets.

"I'm testifying that after he cocked his gun, I didn't know what he was doing," he told county Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Lingo.

He added that he did not intend to kill Mr. Hurst.

"One out of six shots hits the man in the back," he said. "What's the chances of that?"

Mr. Rodriguez often became confrontational with Mr. Lingo and was twice taken into Judge Ruth Ann Franks' chambers.

He also refused to answer questions while under oath about who gave him the gun he had that night, responding that he couldn't remember.

Mr. Rodriguez is charged with murder with a gun specification and faces 15 years to life in prison plus an additional three years for the use of a gun.

He was one of three witnesses the defense called yesterday.

Also testifying were Mr. Rodriguez' girlfriend, April Lutts, and a friend who was with him that night, Marcos Pecina.

Ms. Lutts said she never had a relationship with Mr. Hurst, who she had known since school and had dated before.

She admitted that she told Mr. Rodriguez she had a relationship with Mr. Hurst to get him back for seeing other women.

During his testimony, Mr. Pecina said that he saw the two men fighting outside the Dairy Mart and approached them to help his friend.

He said he left during the fight and had just returned to their vehicle when he heard several gunshots.

He said he and Mr. Rodriguez quickly left the Dairy Mart and never discussed what happened.

During cross-examination, county Assistant Prosecutor Robert Clark questioned why he left his friend with a man who he thought had a gun. He then confronted him by saying that he had in fact grabbed the two packs of beer Mr. Hurst had been carrying and the gold chain around Mr. Hurst's neck before leaving.

Mr. Pecina denied the accusation.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys rested their cases yesterday. The jury will hear closing arguments today and then begin deliberations.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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