Rajerick Lovell Knight, on trial for a fatal shooting in a Beaufort sandwich shop, told jurors Wednesday he gunned down Travis Sentell Holmes because he feared for his life and his family's safety. "You're not here to say you're a boy scout, are you?" his attorney Arie Bax of Beaufort said.
Knight, dressed in a dark-gray suit jacket and black turtleneck sweater, shook his head and made brief eye contact with the jury.
"No sir," he said to Bax.
Knight, 25, testified he had made poor decisions in the past and acknowledged numerous convictions for burglary, larceny, misdemeanor drug possession and unlawful use of a firearm.
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But Holmes, 28, made verbal and physical threats that justified the shooting at a Subway restaurant in the Cross Creek shopping center July 26, 2011.
Bax called seven other witnesses to the stand Wednesday, each testifying about a shooting at a Knight's mobile home on 1 Donaldson Drive in Burton about eight weeks before Holmes was killed.
At the time, Knight lived there with hispregnant girlfriend, Lashaunaka Allen, and his 4-year-old adopted son.
Allen testified that she was at home with her son, Robert, just after midnight May 30, 2011, when she heard a shot fired.
For the next three minutes, two unknown shooters riddled the mobile home with 17 bullets -- 10 from a 9 mm and seven from a .45 caliber. Allen said she crawled to her son in another room and pulled him to the floor until law enforcement arrived.
Knight said went to a neighboring mobile home about 10 minutes before the shots were fired.
Allen testified she went to Beaufort Memorial Hospital the next day for minor injuries from to the shooting. There, she found out she had suffered a miscarriage.
Knight, who stared at the witness stand or jury during most of the testimony, put his face in his hands as Allen recalled the trip to the hospital.
For the next month, investigators with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office tried in vain to locate eight people of interest, including Holmes, but could not collect enough evidence and witness accounts to make an arrest.
Three deputies testified Wednesday about that investigation.
"We couldn't get anyone to come forward," Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Fraser stated. Authorities couldn't get witnesses to speak, but Knight testified that he heard from several neighbors that Holmes and a man named Antoine Robinson were responsible.
"It just took my sense of security away from me," Knight said. "I was very scared."
Before Bax presented his case, Judge Craig Brown denied the defense's request to present some of Holmes' criminal history to the jury. In 2008 and 2009, Holmes was accused of shooting at a man, once while both of them drove down a highway. Holmes also had been charged with shooting a firearm into a dwelling, assault and battery with intent to kill, unlawful possession of a firearm, and filing a false report of a felony. All the charges were pending when Holmes died.
On Tuesday, the jury watched footage from two surveillance cameras that showed Holmes and Knight passing each other at the door of the restaurant.
Knight said Wednesday Holmes whispered "I'm going to kill you," as he passed. About a minute later, Knight returned and shot Holmes.
"When I saw Mr. Holmes, my heart just dropped into my stomach," he said, looking at the jury. "I just couldn't live like that anymore."
FourteenthCircuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said during his cross-examination of Knight that none of the eight witnesses in the restaurant recalled seeing or hearing the two men speak.
The night of the shooting, Knight, his son and Allen fled to Jacksonville, Fla.
Knight was arrested by The U.S. Marshal Service, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Beaufort Police Department three days later. He was denied bond and has remained in the Beaufort County Detention Center. The trial resumes at 10 a.m. today and closing statements are expected early in the afternoon.