CHARLESTON -- James Todd Shafer claimed Monday that he felt threatened when he fired gunshots through an apartment door, and had no intention of hitting his girlfriend.
His fear that a group of men was seeking retribution for Shafer's not going through with a robbery compounded when he heard what he thought was a gunshot outside the apartment, he said during court testimony.
"There was someone outside with a gun trying to hurt me," he said.
Shafer testified in his own defense during his jury trial on charges of first-degree murder and other offenses in connection with the June 18, 2016, shooting death of Ciara Faires.
The presentation of evidence ended Monday and Coles County Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien told the jurors they could expect to start their deliberations on Tuesday (Feb. 27).
Shafer maintained his contention that he fired a gun in response to the confrontation. His explanation for how Monday's version differed from what he told police the day of the shooting was that he couldn't remember anything from the police questioning.
Shafer, 26, of Mattoon was one four people arrested after Faires died from a gunshot wound she received at the apartment at 313 S. 21st St., Mattoon.
Shafer has never denied firing a gun during the incident. But he said that was in response to the others arriving at the apartment, and possibly trying to force their way in.
On Monday, he said when he first learned of Faires' death he "thought they shot her." It was later that he learned that one of the two shots he fired hit her and caused the fatal injury.
CHARLESTON -- James Todd Shafer told his mother during a jail visit he thought other men "we…
During questioning by Public Defender Anthony Ortega, Shafer said the series of events that led to the shooting started on June 26, 2016, when he and a friend, Brett Magana, went to the Mattoon home of Shawn D. Adamson, one of the others charged in connection with Faires' death.
At that point, Shafer said, he was "strung out" and "could be easily manipulated." Another man there, Lamont Mimms, drove them to a Mattoon apartment building, gave them handguns and waited outside while they were supposed to rob a man who lived there, he said.
Shafer said he and Magana did enter the man's apartment and he drew his gun and asked "where is it?" referring to money and marijuana they were supposed to steal.
But, he continued, he got a "bad feeling" about the robbery and backed off, taking only a cellphone and a drug pipe. The robbery target and others there then helped him and Magana leave without Mimms' knowing it, he also said.
Shafer then said he spent the rest of the day trying to keep the others from finding him and was chased at one point by Matthew S. Cook, who was also charged in the case but, during his own trial testimony, denied doing that.
Shafer said he didn't try to return the gun to Mimms or Adamson because he "didn't think they'd be satisfied" with only getting back one gun and with the uncompleted robbery.
He said he eventually met up with Faires and she reluctantly agreed to his plan to leave the state to keep the others from finding him.
But, he said, they were still arguing about that when they arrived at the apartment where the shooting later took place. The apartment's resident, Dion Dixon, wanted them to leave and Faires exited while he and Dixon discussed it, he said.
Shafer said he then heard a knock on the door and looked out a window and saw someone with a revolver followed quickly by a "flash and pop." He took the gun he'd received earlier into the apartment's bedroom and fired shots at the door from there, he said.
When Ortega asked Shafer if intended to shoot Faires, he replied, "Not at all."
"We had our problems but I loved her," he said. "I would never intentionally harm her or anyone else who wasn't trying to hurt me."
During his cross examination, State's Attorney Brian Bower asked Shafer about several inconsistencies between his testimony and his statement to police, of which the jury saw a video recording earlier during the trial.
Each time he was asked about the shooting, Shafer claimed he couldn't remember anything from the police interview. He blamed stress and prescription and illegal drug use that day for his lack of recollection.
The differences in Shafer's two accounts included how many shots he thought the person outside fired and whether the apartment's porch light was shot and broken.
He said he saw Faires and Cook outside the apartment when he looked out and thought Adamson was the one with the gun, though he could not identify that person with certainty.
Shafer was the last witness Ortega called for the defense's case.
In response, Bower called Mattoon police Deputy Chief Sam Gaines to testify about what he observed about Shafer during the questioning.
Gaines said Shafer was "fidgety" but no more than expected for someone being questioned by police. There were no signs that he was impaired from alcohol or drug use, Gaines also said.
O'Brien told the jury they could expect Tuesday's trial session to begin with the attorney's closing arguments, followed by their deliberations.
Shafer, who's been jailed since the day of the shooting, would face a sentence of 45 years to life if convicted of the murder charges against him.
Some charges allege he fired the gun intending to kill or hurt someone and others accuse him of firing in the direction of another person and causing a death. Those cover different theories of what might have happened for the jury to consider.
Adamson, 35, is also charged with first-degree murder for allegedly starting the confrontation that led to Faires' death and is scheduled for trial starting on Monday of next week.
Cook, 33, and Kevin W. Johnson, 40, who was also charged, both eventually pleaded guilty to reduced charges that Bower said at the time better reflected their roles in the incident.