PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Testimony has begun in the homicide trial of Army veteran Brandon Thomas in Washington County after an alleged road rage incident.
Thomas, of Upper Saint Clair, is accused of killing Vaughn Simonelli in in the Shop ‘N Save parking lot in October 2012.
During opening statements, prosecutor Chad Schneider said Thomas shot Simonelli in the shoulder and back, and said Thomas left his vehicle to do so.
Defense attorney Frank Walker argued to the jury that Thomas shot Simonelli inside Thomas’ Hummer because Simonelli attacked him inside his vehicle.
Walker called the victim “deranged” and said the shooting was in self-defense.
Witnesses testified that the two had a confrontation on Jefferson Avenue in Washington just before the second confrontation in the shopping center parking lot.
“I looked at the shooter as he was sitting on the edge of the seat and said you didn’t have to shoot him twice,” said eyewitness Roger Anderson.
That’s how close he got to the gunman and victim.
This is how Anderson says it ended:
“The shooter said ‘I got somebody in the hospital and I’m leaving. I’m getting out of here’ and he (the victim) said you’re not going anywhere and he threw a punch inside the hummer. The door was open he threw his right arm in and bang bang he came out.”
Harold Hayes asked him, “And the shooter was outside the hummer or inside?”
“I’m pretty sure he was sitting on the seat,” replied Anderson.
That’s significant because a previous prosecution witness testified Thomas got out of the Hummer and fired the shots and the prosecution says he spent casings were found outside the car. The defense says Thomas being attacked inside the car was within his rights to fire from inside the car.
All Roger Anderson knows is he thought twice about confronting the gunman -after the fact.
“Oh I got half-way home and thought about it,” said Anderson. “My son reamed me out pretty good. He said, ‘Dad, don’t you know he could have just turned half a turn and put two in you?'”
A detective testified Thomas told him he was within his rights under the castle doctrine to fire when attacked inside his vehicle but admitted it was possible he may have pursued the victim till he hit the ground.