Michael Dunn breaks down: 'I was in fear'

NEED TO KNOW
  • Dunn is charged with first-degree murder for shooting teenager Jordan Davis after dispute over loud music in 2012
  • Dunn took the stand in his own defense Tuesday
  • Watch HLN for live coverage of Dunn's testimony
Michael Dunn testifies in his first-degree murder trial

See the evidence in the Michael Dunn case

See the evidence in the Michael Dunn case

Michael Dunn testifies: Teen told me, 'You're dead'

Michael Dunn testifies: Teen told me, 'You're dead'

"I’m shaking, I mean I’m quivering like a leaf."

That's how Michael Dunn described his demeanor in the moments after he shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida, on the night of November 23, 2012, following a dispute over loud music.

The 47-year-old took the stand Tuesday, the fifth day of his murder trial, and wiped his eyes several times as he told the jury why he had to grab his gun and start firing at four teens who were in an SUV parked right next to him at a gas station that night.

"Body panels of the SUV were rattling, my rearview mirror was shaking, my ear drums were vibrating. This was ridiculously loud music," Dunn testified. "I’ve asked people to turn it down before and they do it happily... I said, 'Can you turn that down, please?'"

What happened next, according to Dunn, was a scene that quickly spiraled out of control. 

"After hearing the, ‘Something, something cracker,’ and this and that, I hear, ‘I should kill that mother f****r,’ and I’m flabbergasted -- I must not be hearing this right," Dunn said. "And in an even more elevated voice, ‘I should f******g killing this mother f****r’ -- and now he’s screaming. There’s no mistake to what he said, that’s what he said.”

Those words were allegedly coming from Jordan Davis, the passenger who was sitting in the right rear seat of the red Dodge Durango SUV parked next to Dunn.

Dunn went on to testify, "I saw sticking above like the window sill, about four inches of a barrel." He described the barrel as such that would belong to a shotgun. Police said no weapons were recovered from inside the teens' vehicle. 

“After the continued threat of, ‘You’re dead, b***h,’ now the door opens and this young man gets out and as his head clears the window frame he says, ‘This s**t’s going down now,'" Dunn said. "This is the point where my death is imminent, he’s coming to kill me, he’s coming to beat me… he made it clear what his intentions were."

Dunn demonstrated to jurors how, in a matter of seconds, he reached over to his glove box, grabbed his pistol and shot several times -- six of the nine bullets that hit the teens' SUV pierced the right-side doors. 

Dunn has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Davis' death and three counts of attempted murder related to the three other teens who were in the vehicle with Davis and survived the shooting.

Those three teens -- Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson and Tommie Stornes -- testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial and had a different story to tell. They agreed that their music was blaring so loud it vibrated their windows, but said their friend never threatened Dunn or tried to exit the vehicle. They also said there were no weapons inside the SUV. 

During cross-examination, prosecutor John Guy focused on the hours following the shooting and accused Dunn of calling for pizza instead of calling police.

"I really wasn’t worried about the law, sir. Self-defense, you can’t change it into murder... I had other concerns at the time, surrounding my fiancée [Rhonda Rouer]," Dunn said. He also recalled telling Rouer, "We might be in trouble with the local gangsters -- but I didn’t do anything wrong."

Dunn described the scene back at the hotel, saying, "We were there looking out the windows, like a waking nightmare. Every car was a red SUV -- I mean, to us. We were just -- you have to understand -- we didn’t know anybody had been hurt. We thought we had just made them go away and that they were going to come back."

It was later than night -- after he ordered pizza to calm Rouer's "upset stomach" -- that Dunn saw on his phone that someone had been killed during the shooting. 

"I ran to the bathroom -- I vomited," Dunn said. Rouer saw the news the next morning and, after the pair hugged, she asked him to take her home, according to Dunn.

When Dunn stepped down from the witness stand, the defense rested its case. Rouer was then called to testify again and answered more questions from the prosecution as part of its rebuttal case. She was visibly shaken and wrung her hands as she said Dunn didn't tell her after the shooting -- either in their car or at their hotel -- that he saw a weapon in the teens' vehicle. 

Closing arguments in the case are expected to take place Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. ET. 

If convicted, Dunn faces up to life in prison. 

HLN is live-blogging Dunn's testimony. Read below for minute-by-minute updates (best read from the bottom up):

2:53 p.m. ET: HLN is ending the live blog now that Dunn is off the witness stand. Stay with HLN and HLNtv.com for complete coverage of this trial.

2:44 p.m. ET: Dunn listens as attorneys discuss which parts to include/exclude from the transcript.

2:26 p.m. ET: The attorneys are discussing a transcript. 

2:31 p.m. ET: The judge has dismissed the motion of acquittal, saying, "the issues are such that they can and should be considered by a jury."

Corey says the prosecution has one more witness and then they’ll play a video. 

2:28 p.m. ET: Strolla argues for a motion of acquittal. He says the prosecution has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutor Angela Corey is arguing before the judge about why the case shouldn't be thrown out. 

2:26 p.m. ET: Dunn says he wasn't in a rational state of mind that night, when he found out Davis was dead, when he spoke to police or when he was charged with murder. Strolla has completed his questions for Dunn, who has stepped down from the witness stand. The defense rests its case and the judge has dismissed the jury for about 15 minutes so he can speak with the attorneys. 

2:22 p.m. ET: The attorneys are at a sidebar. 

2:21 p.m. ET: “When you fired the gun, did you believe a warning shot would make him go away?” asked Strolla.

“I did not,” said Dunn. He also said he thought Davis was going to pull the trigger on his own gun and that he wasn’t going to wait for him to do it. 

2:20 p.m. ET: Dunn said Davis threatened his life "like a man." He also said it was four against one and that he doesn't body build or lift weights. 

2:16 p.m. ET: On his state of mind the morning following the incident: "It was like an out of body experience trying to process what happened. You know, we were upset when it was just a shooting and now that we found out it was a fatality we were crazy with grief."

2:14 p.m. ET: Dunn says his fiancée wasn't in a condition that night -- or the next day -- to take care of herself. 

2:12 p.m. ET: Defense attorney Strolla is asking Dunn about records showing calls between him and his friend in law enforcement. 

2:11 p.m. ET: Guy has completed his cross-examination of Dunn. 

2:10 p.m. ET: Dunn says the friend who works in law enforcement works in agriculture. 

"He’s got a shield and everything," said Dunn.

Guy says this friend called Dunn before Dunn called him because he wanted to go out with Dunn. Guys says Dunn never told him he had an issue, just that his fiancée wasn't feeling well and couldn't go out. 

2:06 p.m. ET: The attorneys are at a sidebar.

2:04 p.m. ET: “In the situation I was in, I consciously pulled the trigger once. Everything after that was just a panic,” Dunn said.

2:01p.m. ET: Guy is asking Dunn about another letter he wrote, this time to his fiancée. Guy reads this passage: “He mentioned in passing that I had made no mention of a gun to you.”

“Right, so what’s your point? That that’s what it says?” asked Dunn.

“So you didn’t tell Rhonda Rouer about a gun?” asked Guy.

“That’s not what this says -- this says somebody else told me she said she didn’t remember me mentioning the gun. That’s a lot different than me not mentioning the gun to her.

1:58 p.m. ET: “I’m sure we could have done a lot of things, but again, we didn’t. And it kind of describes the state of mind we were in – the shock,” said Dunn.

1:57 p.m. ET: Dunn said he thought the windows were open based on “ambient light coming through.”

“Did you cry when the news came on that a young boy had been killed?” asked Guy.

“I don’t recall, I know I was very upset,” said Dunn.

“I really wasn’t worried about the law, sir. Self-defense, you can’t change it into murder… I had other concerns at the time, surrounding my fiancée,” said Dunn. 

1:53 p.m. ET: The judge is back on the bench and the jury is seated. 

1:05 p.m. ET: The judge just announced a 20-minute break. The live blog will resume when Dunn gets back on the stand. 

1:03 p.m. ET: The attorneys are at a sidebar. 

1:00 p.m. ET: "I didn’t call the police until the following morning," said Dunn.

"You called the pizza man, right?" asked Guy.

"Yeah I think I mentioned that," said Dunn. "I wanted to get something for Rhonda to eat, to calm her upset stomach."

12:56 p.m. ET: Guy asks Dunn why he didn't call police.

"You’re right, it sounds crazy and I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking when all this happened I can just tell you I didn’t do it," said Dunn. 

12:53 p.m. ET: "I was shooting to keep their heads down, not to kill," said Dunn. When Guy asks why he put his gun back in his glove compartment even though he feared more "gangsters" coming to hurt him: "My gun was ready to fire at that time -- it was fully loaded."

12:47 p.m. ET: "My intention was to stop an attack -- not end a life. It worked out like that," Dunn said. 

12:45 p.m. ET: Dunn said in a letter that he was paralyzed with fear but that it went away once Davis got out of his vehicle. He said he didn't write the letters for the prosecutors but that he's glad the jury will get a chance to read them to see what happened that night. 

Dunn said he didn't fire a warning shot: "I have every right of self-defense and I took it."

12:43 p.m. ET: Dunn says that at the time he was 6’4” and 250 pounds or more. Guy says Davis was 5’11” and 145 pounds with all his clothes on.

“I tell you, anybody with a gun is deadly,” Dunn said. 

12:41 p.m. ET: Guy asks Dunn if he's implying that Davis fired a shot at him. 

"I have no knowledge of what he did or didn’t do," said Dunn.

12:40 p.m. ET: "I was done, this is serious, I took him at his word… now he’s telling me it’s going to happen now. I’m not going to forfeit my life to somebody," said Dunn.

12:38 p.m. ET: Dunn said the two vehicles were pretty close but there's no ding in his car where Davis' door would have hit his when he exited his vehicle. Guy said that Dunn wrote in a letter that the vehicles were so close that he couldn't get out. 

12:36 p.m. ET: Guy points out that the vehicle's windows were tinted and asks how Dunn was able to see that Davis was bending forward to grab something. Dunn says the window was down. 

12:32 p.m. ET: Guy asks Dunn if he told police that he may have seen a stick in the vehicle. 

"Yes, I did and this is after the police telling me there’s no weapon recovered at the car or the scene and me believing the police were competent and able to search the whole area, so by process of elimination – some type of industrial item," Dunn said. "A stick doesn’t really do justice to it. Picture anything that looks like a barrel. Picture something with a metal patina with the same thickness as a shotgun barrel."

"You don’t like that music, do you?" asked Guy. 

"It’s not my style but when I was a kid my folks didn’t like rock n’ roll," said Dunn. "It was Jordan Davis who kept escalating this to the point where I had no choice but to defend myself… it was life or death."

12:21 p.m. ET: The attorneys are at a sidebar. 

12:20 p.m. ET: Dunn again on "thug music:" "That’s not a term I’m familiar with." 

"But 'rap crap,' you don’t like that either?" asked Guy.

"I don’t like the thumping," said Dunn.

"Especially when it’s loud," said Guy. 

"Yeah, it hurts my ears," said Dunn.

Dunn said he didn't tell police that Davis told him, "This s**t's going down now." He said he slept two hours that night and didn't remember that detail at the time. 

12:13 p.m. ET: The attorneys are at a sidebar. 

12:12 p.m. ET: Dunn said he doesn't recall saying anything to his fiancée about "thug music." 

"If I would have said anything I would have called it 'rap crap,'" said Dunn.

12:11 p.m. ET: "Jordan Davis was never a threat to you was he, Mr. Dunn?" asked Guy.

"Absolutely he was," said Dunn. "Not only did he get out – his head cleared the window frame."

12:08 p.m. ET: Dunn asks Guy to show the picture with the bullet hole trajectories, which he says obviously show the door was open when he fired. Guy shows the picture to the jury.

12:05 p.m. ET: Guy asks Dunn about a letter he wrote about the day after Thanksgiving called “Black Friday.” Dunn says he wanted to get all the facts out. 

Guy reads a portion: "He had apparently seen me go for my own weapon and dove back inside the SUV." Dunn testified today that Davis was outside the vehicle when he shot. Dunn said it's splitting hairs if his feet were outside but his body was inside. 

12:02 p.m. ET: "The truth is, Mr. Dunn, you never told Rhonda Rouer, ever, that they had a Dunn," said Guy.

"You weren’t there," said Dunn.

"Did you?" asked Guy.

"I said you were not there," said Dunn.

11:59 a.m. ET: Prosecutor Guy is firing questions at Dunn, telling him at one point, "Let me finish." 

"When he just had a gun I didn’t shoot him -- It wasn’t until he made specific threats and got out of his car and came after me," Dunn said. 

11:58 a.m. ET: "She doesn’t understand self-defense but you are right, she was very upset over what I had done," Dunn said. He believes he told his fiancée that the teens had a weapon.

"I don't know what I said but I told her they had a weapon, they threatened my life and they -- he -- advanced upon me," Dunn said. He said he specifically used the word "gun" several times. 

11:56 a.m. ET: Defense attorney Strolla has finished his questions. Prosecutor John Guy has begun his cross-examination. 

11:55 a.m. ET: "I spoke to them freely, I had nothing to hide," Dunn said of the police. 

11:53 a.m. ET: Dunn said he didn't try to run, flee or resist police.

11:51 a.m. ET: Dunn said he was asked to go outside with his hands up, shirt off. 

11:49 a.m. ET: When Dunn got a call from a detective he told him: "I know why you’re calling. It was self-defense. I’m on my way to a law enforcement officer’s home right now. My intention is to make my report to the Brevard County Sheriff."

11:44 a.m. ET: Dunn said his plan was to go home and talk to his neighbor, who is in law enforcement and then talk to his local sheriff. 

"Hopefully they would listen to my side," Dunn said. "I knew I had done nothing wrong but it was hard to get her [his fiancée] to understand this. At the time I was more concerend with her... go deal with law enforcement later." 

11:40 a.m. ET: When his fiancée saw the news the next morning: "She said my name three times," Dunn said. "I went out and I gave her a hug and said, ‘I know.’"

After they hugged, she said to him “three, four times,” to take her home. 

11:38 a.m. ET: Dunn said he had trouble sleeping that night: “I was still processing the emotions and trying to make sense of what happened… I’m upset and shaken and again – we still don’t know about the death, it’s just a shooting at this point.”

When Dunn saw the news on his phone (that someone had died) he said, "I ran to the bathroom -- I vomited." He said he was in the bathroom the rest of the night. 

11:35 a.m. ET: Dunn said they ordered pizza because he thought his fiancée needed to get some food. She hadn't eaten much at the wedding, according to Dunn, who also said, "She was quaking, visibly quaking." When asked if he ate: "No, I had no appetite."

"We were stunned and horrified and couldn't believe things escalated the way they did over a common courtesy," Dunn said. 

11:33 a.m. ET: "We were staying at a hotel that has like a club room at the top floor. And we were there looking out the windows, like a waking nightmare. Every car was a red SUV, I mean, to us. We were just, you have to understand, we didn’t know anybody had been hurt. We thought we had just made them go away and that they were going to come back," Dunn said. “She was a wreck. I wasn’t much better – I was trying to hold it together for both of us... I think I’m more emotional now than I was that night because I was trying to be stoic. I had difficulty processing what was going on."

Dunn told his fiancée: "We might be in trouble with the local gangsters – but I didn’t do anything wrong."

11:28 a.m. ET: "I know there’s at least one weapon – I have three, four potential shooters," said Dunn. "I stopped firing when it appeared the threat was over."

Dunn said he was afraid the teens might grab friends.

"I’m shaking, I mean I’ve quivering like a leaf," Dunn said. 

11:25 a.m. ET: "It wasn’t just my life I was worried about, you know?" Dunn said about his fiancée, as he breaks down. 

11:18 a.m. ET: Dunn steps down from the witness stand to show the jury his fingers and how he injured them in a "home improvement project gone awry." This is the reason, he explains, why "I have to hold it [the gun] two-handed for the recoil."

11:17 a.m. ET: “I grab the whole thing and I threw the holster down at my feet in the car… I’m in a panic… I’m just pointing it at the direction of my attacker at that point… everything he said and did cemented the fact that whatever he threw up against – that looked like a gun – was a gun,” Dunn said.

“Were you shooting only to defend yourself?” asked Strolla.

“Yes, I was,” replied Dunn. He reenacts how fast he grabbed the gun and started firing. He said he doesn't remember how many shots he fired but said that watching video from the scene brings him back to that place and makes him feel scared. He describes having tunnel vision during the incident. 

11:12 a.m. ET: Dunn said he doesn't believe in keeping a live round in the chamber of his gun, for safety reasons because of his two young daughters. 

11:10 a.m. ET: “What went through my mind is that this was a clear and present danger and I said, ‘You’re not going to kill me you son of a b***h’… I said that as I was retrieving my pistol," Dunn said. 

11:08 a.m. ET: “After the continued threat of, ‘You’re dead, b***h,’ now the door opens and this young man gets out and as his head clears the window frame he says, ‘This s***’s going down now,'" Dunn said. "This is the point where my death is imminent he’s coming to kill me, he’s coming to beat me… he made it clear what his intentions were."

11:06 a.m. ET: Dunn didn't know where his fiancée was at this point.

“I was going, ‘Oh my god, where’s all this hostility coming from?” Dunn said. "It’s not just my life, it’s hers, too."

11:05 a.m. ET: Dunn said Jordan Davis cracked his door open. 

“Then he looked at me and said you’re dead, b***h… I became even more fearful at that point… I thought I was going to be killed," Dunn said.

11:03 a.m. ET: “He slammed something against the door and said yeah, I’m going to f***ing kill you,” Dunn said. “He’s showing me a gun and he’s threatening me…I was in fear for my life and I was probably stunned… I had never been threatened, let alone with a firearm before… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing.” He said he didn’t pull his weapon at this point.

11:00 a.m. ET: “After hearing the, ‘Something, something cracker’ and this and that I hear, ‘I should kill that mother f***er,’ and I’m flabbergasted, I must not be hearing this right… I heard him say that and I wasn’t sure that’s what I heard. And now I’m listening closely. When I’m sitting there I’m kind of thinking about the nice day we had. I’m thinking about St. Augustine tomorrow, but when this, ‘I should kill this mother f***er,’ comes through, now I’m paying attention to what they’re saying. And in an even more elevated voice, ‘I should f***ing killing this mother f***er,’ and now he’s screaming. There’s no mistake to what he said, that’s what he said.”

“I saw two young men with menacing expressions.”

Dunn said he wanted to de-escalate the situation.

“And I ask, are you talking about me?” Dunn said.  “I wanted to make it clear I said thank you -- I didn’t mean any disrespect by asking them to turn the music down.”

“He reached forward and picked something up and slammed it against the door,” Dunn said. “I’m sorry, he reached down. I could see his shoulders move, I couldn’t see his hands.” 

"I saw sticking above like the window sill, about four inches of a barrel," which Dunn describes as a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun. 

10:53 a.m. ET: “Very soon after I start hearing things like, ‘F him’ and, ‘F that,’ and you know it’s… I’m paraphrasing,” Dunn said. “It was mean-spirited, you know, just annoyed, if you will.”

He said he didn’t react, roll down his widow, punch his steering wheel or throw his phone down – “No reaction at all,” he said.

“Growing up in the keys, scuba diving is a big part of life and I actually have damage to my right ear, I don’t know what the percentage is but I do have a loss of hearing in my right ear and consequently my left ear kind of compensates for it,” Dunn said.

“Now it got ugly, I heard, ‘Something, something cracker," Dunn said. 

10:50 a.m. ET: "I’ve asked people to turn it down before and they do it happily," Dunn said. "I said, 'Can you turn that down, please?'" Dunn said they did and he said, "Thank you." 

10:48 a.m. ET: "It actually started a few seconds after she went in the store. It was music and then it got really loud," Dunn said. "Body panels of the SUV were rattling, my rearview mirror was shaking, my ear drums were vibrating. This was ridiculously loud music."

10:45 a.m. ET: On picking that particular parking sport: "It was the closest spot to the door that was open… so we didn’t have far to walk to the door."

"At some point did you hear loud, thumping bass?" asked Strolla.

"Yes, I did," said Dunn.

10:43 a.m. ET: It was his fiancée's idea to stop at the gas station because she wanted white wine and chips, according to Dunn. 

"It was on the way, I mean, we got off the highway and I was following my GPS map," Dunn said. "You know, not really knowing where we were at – it was the first place we saw." 

10:41 a.m. ET: Dunn said he told the family he'd have to leave the wedding early "because Charlie was in the room by himself in the crate and he was going to need a potty break."

10:40 a.m. ET: When asked how many drinks he had at his son's wedding, Dunn says, "Not many. I mean they were small... I would have a small glass and then I would do a water, plus we were eating."

10:37 a.m. ET: Dunn says he enjoys alcohol beverages but risks losing his pilot's license if he were caught driving while impaired. 

10:35 a.m. ET: Dunn wipes his eyes while talking about his fiancée, Rhonda Rouer. He said they had dated for six months before moving in together and that they had lived together for three years at the time of the shooting. The couple found a pet-friendly hotel for his son’s wedding to accommodate their 7-month-old puppy.

"Was this dog kind of your guys’ child?" asked defense attorney Strolla.

"Yes," said Dunn.

"What was his name?" asked Strolla.

"His name is Charlie,” Dunn said, wiping tears from his eyes again. 

10:31 a.m. ET: “Hi, good morning, I’m Michael Dunn,” he tells the jury. He says he had a motorcycle accident when he was young and hurt his back. 

10:27 a.m. ET: The defense has called Michael Dunn. He has been sworn in and has walked to the witness stand. The jury is being seated.

10:18 a.m. ET: 

10:12 a.m. ET: Dunn is not wearing a suit today but a sweater with a button-down shirt and tie underneath. 

10:07 a.m. ET: Dunn’s attorney says his client is wearing a leg brace. They have concerns about him walking to the witness stand in front of jurors. 

10:05 a.m. ET: “Do you understand that taking the witness stand is completely your choice? It’s an independent decision you make on your own?” asked the judge.

“Yes I do, your honor,” says Dunn. He calls the charges from the state “preposterous.”

10:03 a.m. ET: Dunn raise is hand and is sworn in. Judge Russell L. Healey explains his rights to him. “You have an absolutely right to remain silent. Nobody can make you take the witness stand,” says Healey.

9:57 a.m. ET: The live blog will begin as soon as Dunn takes the stand. 

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