A Camden man facing murder charges testified Tuesday that he took out a gun and "just pulled the trigger" to save himself from several Bloods gang members who were beating him in a Camden park in June 2011.
"I was trying to get them away from me," Laurie Wint, 26, said in Superior Court in Camden. "I was scared I was going to die."
Wint is accused of shooting and killing Kevin Miller, 19, during a dispute over the victim's 14-year-old girlfriend. Authorities said Wint fled across the Delaware River after the killing and, weeks later, stabbed Tyrone Newman, 33, to death in Warminster.
Wint, a former Macy's shoe salesman, according to his attorney, was convicted in 2012 for Newman's slaying and sentenced to 12½ to 25 years in prison in Pennsylvania.
Wearing a black tie and blue dress shirt Tuesday, Wint testified that he fled Camden partly because his mother's home was shot at after Miller's death. He suspected that the Bloods gang was involved. Miller, like other gang members, carried a red "flag" in his right pocket, Wint said.
"I knew the Bloods were looking for me," he said, adding that he knew he was wanted by authorities when he saw his face on TV.
Wint, questioned by his attorney, Jeffrey Zucker, said he didn't mean to kill Miller. He testified that he had returned from Philadelphia that day after smoking marijuana, and was walking to a friend's house when Miller and three others approached him in a car and told him to come over.
Wint said he kept walking. Miller and the three others, Wint said, then stepped out of the car and began punching him.
At one point during the fight, Wint said he saw someone pull out a gun. Then, Wint said, "I reached for my gun and shot."
"I wasn't trying to kill him," Wint said of Miller. "I was trying to save myself."
He said he knew the gun was illegal but he carried it for protection because he lived in a violent neighborhood in Camden.
Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Peter Crawford pointed out that Miller was shot in the chest, and questioned Wint's claim that he did not purposely aim the gun at Miller.
Last week, Crawford also said there were options other than shooting. Wint's action, he said, "was not self-defense."
Wint, after fleeing to Pennsylvania and stabbing Newman, ultimately returned to Camden, where police said they found him hiding in a basement with a rifle in the 200 block of Rand Street in late July 2011.
Up for debate Tuesday between prosecutors and the defense was the extent to which Wint's prior convictions could be discussed with jurors.
Judge Edward J. McBride, Jr., concluded that the attorneys could tell the jury that Wint had spent time in prison - but not that it was for murder. Miller's mother, sobbing, left the courtroom upon hearing the decision.