TAMPA (FOX 13) - Army veteran Ruben Rodriguez shot and killed Enrique Garcia using an AR-15 rifle. The question remains: Was it self-defense or murder?
On the first day of the trial, defense attorney Anthony Rickman held the AR-15 while setting up the argument that Rodriguez feared for his life, but prosecutor Greg Pizzo sees it differently.
"As he bends down, he's shot in the face. Mr. Rodriguez speeds off," Pizzo described.
Prosecutors told the jury that, on the night of the shooting, Rodriguez spotted two men running from his shed. So he jumped in his car with his girlfriend, and that's when he went too far.
"Ruben Rodriguez jumped the gun in this case, when he went hunting down two men that he thought he saw on his property," said Pizzo.
Hoping to bolster their case, state prosecutors called convicted felon Steve Martinez to the stand. Martinez is an admitted liar and drug user, but he was with Enrique Garcia the night he was shot, and now a key witness in this case.
Martinez says he remembers the defendant driving up as he and Garcia walked down the street. He said he noticed the tip of a rifle poking out of the driver's side window.
"He asked if [we] seen anybody running down the street because he said someone was looking in his son's window?" explained Martinez. "I told [him], 'Nah, I didn't see anybody. 'If I would have saw 'em, I would have told him."
But Martinez says Garcia was less friendly and more confrontational.
"He tells him, 'We didn't see anybody. What? I'm suppose to be scared because you have a gun mother****er?'" Martinez recalled.
Martinez said, as his friend bent down to swat mosquitos from his legs, he heard a gun shot.
"I heard the girl scream and I go like this," Martinez said as he covered his ears. "Because it was loud."
But defense attorney David Knox disputes his recollection, claiming Enrique Garcia began taunting Rodriguez.
"'That's not a real gun.' He grabs the AR-15, puts it in his mouth and says, 'Pull the trigger. I'm not afraid to die. Are you afraid to die?'" claimed Knox.
Fearing he was losing the grip on his weapon, Rodriguez fired one shot, killing Garcia.
The trial continues Wednesday.