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Self defense claimed in murder trial

NATCHEZ — A man charged with a 2018 murder said he feared for his life.

“I felt threatened by him. I was scared. I thought he was going to kill me,” Da’Larren White said when he testified Thursday in his murder trial in Sixth District Circuit Court.

The “he” White was referring to was 27-year-old Rodrique Watson who was shot and killed in the parking lot of Zippy gas station after midnight on March 21, 2018.

The trial, which began Wednesday, is being held in the Natchez Convention Center to allow for adequate social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shooting incident reportedly involved four shooters, three of who were also arrested and the fourth is believed to have been the murder victim, Watson.

The two other suspects, Keith Burns and Gregory Hammett, were both charged with tampering with evidence for reportedly attempting to hide weapons.

Investigators said the bullets retrieved in autopsy were matched to White’s gun.

White testified he had received two gunshot wounds himself, one on the back of his head and the other in his abdomen.

After the shooting, he was treated at a Natchez hospital and was airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Investigators determined the return fire came from Burns who was using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Jurors and 30 or more spectators watched surveillance footage in the courtroom showing multiple angles of the incident.

A black truck appears to start pulling out of the gas station parking lot when Watson approaches the vehicle walking toward a car opposite from the truck.

As Watson walks by, the truck backs up into the parking lot again.

Watson walks toward the truck with his left hand in his pocket and his right swinging at his side.

A man, identified as White, steps out of the driver’s side of the vehicle and shoots a gun multiple times at Watson. White then points the gun at the car and two other men, believed to be Burns and Hammett, emerge from the car and start shooting.

Watson struggles on the ground apparently searching for a gun also and manages to fire a couple of shots before he becomes motionless.

On the witness stand, White said Watson had made threats to him just before the shooting started.

“He said ‘What the F you got your shirt off for, I’ll blow you away,’” White said of Watson.

White said he traveled to Zippy with his friend Terrance Brooks to buy snacks for his children and Brooks spilled a drink on him so he took off his shirt.

Brooks was also arrested in 2018 for accessory before the fact.

Whites’ attorney, Wayne Dowdy, said White did not have a motive for shooting Watson and asked for the charge against White to be dismissed, which Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Lillie B. Sanders denied.

Sanders told the jury they would receive their instructions and closing statements would be made beginning at 9 a.m. today at the Natchez Convention Center, after which the jury will convene begin deliberations.