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Suspect In Fatal Parking Lot Shooting Ordered To Stand Trial

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — Witnesses in a fatal road rage shooting in Washington County say they heard yelling and screaming moments before shots were fired.

That testimony was heard for the first time on Tuesday in court as the suspect in the case was ordered to stand trial.

Brandon Thomas, of Upper St. Clair, is now headed to trial on murder and drug paraphernalia charges.

His lawyer says the drug charges are bogus and the murder was in self-defense.

“That is definitely in play,” said Frank Walker, the defense attorney. “Self-defense is in play, justification is in play, the Castle Doctrine is in play.”

The shooting happened last month in the Washington, Pa., grocery store parking lot.

Witnesses say they saw Thomas and Vaughn Simonelli arguing.

“They indicated that the defendant, Brandon Thomas, was yelling and was yelling profanity,” said Mike Lucas, the assistant district attorney in Washington County. “They also indicated that Mr. Thomas threatened Mr. Simonelli with a firearm, and there was a pretty graphic description of Mr. Thomas pointing that weapon at Mr. Simonelli and killing him.”

Defense lawyers say the argument started blocks from the shooting on Jefferson Avenue with a fender bender and escalated from there.

“We have a lot of witnesses who will testify as they were fighting, there were issues coming down Jefferson Avenue,” said Walker. “They will testify at trial that this wasn’t an issue of someone being quiet and my guy had a gun and started shooting, that’s not the testimony.”

Defense attorneys claim Thomas was defending himself.

“There was testimony that Mr. Simonelli was ramming his car and they were fighting and disputing as they came down Jefferson on the way to Shop N’ Save,” Walker added.

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