Different theories emerged Tuesday in the criminal trial of a Fresno State student who fatally shot a 19-year-old man and wounded two others in a dispute over a Sony PlayStation 2.
Either Jonquel Brooks feared for his life when he killed Brant Daniels and wounded Roderick Buycks Jr. and Drew Pfeiff, as his attorney asserted. Or he needlessly fired a .22-caliber revolver at the unarmed victims in his apartment, as prosecutor Burton Francis said in opening statements of the Fresno County Superior Court trial.
Brooks, 21, faces murder and attempted murder charges stemming from the May 7, 2007, shooting at the University Village Apartments on Barstow Avenue a block west of the California State University, Fresno, campus. He has pleaded not guilty.
Attorney Jane Boulger, who is defending Brooks, told jurors she will give her opening statement after Francis finishes the prosecution's case.
During a break, she said her client feared for his life because "he was outnumbered and outsized." Brooks is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 160 pounds, jail records show. Boulger said the four men who confronted him about Buycks' stolen PlayStation were about 6 feet or taller. "He felt cornered," she said.
She also said Brooks has no criminal record, and there is no evidence that he stole the PlayStation. During the investigation, police seized a PlayStation from Brooks' room, but it wasn't the one that was stolen, Boulger said. "It's self-defense," Boulger said, because Brooks told the four men to leave his apartment four times before he fired a warning shot into the floor.
When the four men became aggressive, Brooks became afraid, partly because a group of men had beaten and kicked him two years earlier, causing him to be hospitalized in intensive care, Boulger said. "That incident triggered a response to protect himself," she said.
But Francis told the jury that the four men seeking the stolen PlayStation did not provoke Brooks. "No one can explain why he fired the weapon. No punches were thrown."
Brooks, a freshman criminology major, and the victims lived at the University Village Apartments and played intramural basketball together at the college campus. They lived a carefree lifestyle and often left their apartments open for their friends, Francis said.
Trouble surfaced when someone stole Buycks' PlayStation. The thief, however, forgot to take the electrical cords that allowed the video-game console to work, Francis said.
When Brooks began asking others at the complex about obtaining electrical cords for a PlayStation, Daniels, Buycks, Pfeiff and Kodi Shiflett went to his apartment in search of the stolen console, Francis said.
Initially, Daniels and Buycks confronted Brooks about the stolen console, while Pfeiff and Shiflett talked cordially with two of Brooks' roommates, Francis said. Brooks went into his bedroom and called a friend to help him out. He also grabbed a .22-caliber revolver from underneath his mattress, Francis said.
According to Francis, Brooks confronted the four men, but they told him to put the gun away, saying he wouldn't use it. Brooks first fired one round into the floor, Francis said. Though the victims backed up a little, they continued to demand the PlayStation, he said.
Brooks then separated himself from the crowd, aimed his weapon at the victims and fired, shooting Buycks in the neck and firing several rounds at Daniels, Francis said. The foursome managed to run out of the apartment, but Brooks kept firing, striking Daniels in the back and Pfeiff in the shoulder.
Brooks ran from the apartment complex before police arrived, and he shaved his head to change his appearance, Francis said. He surrendered to police about 12 hours later.