Trial begins in Jay, Fla., shooting

Published 4:00 am Saturday, May 7, 2011

MILTON, Fla. — Shots were fired from the car that Gus Benjamin was riding in Feb. 26, 2010, after Robert Floyd fired a pump-action rifle at the departing vehicle, a witness testified Thursday.
Floyd, a Jay, Fla., resident, is on trial for the shooting death of T.R. Miller graduate Getyron “Gus” Benjamin, 18. Testimony is expected to continue through next week.
The shooting occurred at a party at Floyd’s home; at the time, the incident raised racial tensions because Floyd is white and Benjamin was black. Attorneys in the case have acknowledged that there are different accounts as to who fired first.
In opening statements, defense attorney Bryan McLeod said Floyd acted in self defense.
“He had absolutely no intent to kill anybody or to harm anybody,” he said. “He was defending himself. He was meeting that threat of deadly force with the same level of force.“
State attorney Robert Elmore said Floyd acted in anger after Benjamin showed a pistol “in fear.”
“In his mind, (Floyd said,) ‘I’ve got a bigger gun. And I’m going to get it now,’” Elmore said in his opening statement.
Matthew Rees, who attended both T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal and was a passing acquaintance of both the victim and the suspect, told the jury Thursday that he was at the party at which an altercation led to Benjamin’s death.
Benjamin arrived with three other Brewton residents at the bonfire party at Floyd’s house, Rees testified.
The party became noticeably quieter when the quartet arrived, Rees said.
“Then somebody shouted, ‘You got 10 seconds to leave my (expletive) property,” Rees testified.
The words — which were not spoken by Floyd — were directed at Benjamin and Gerald Banton, Rees said.
“(Floyd) came over and pushed Gerald,” Rees said. “So Gerald showed him a revolver. He did not point it at anyone.
“And (Floyd) said, ‘He’s got a gun; he’s got a gun.”
Benjamin and Banton walked away from the altercation, but Rees said he later saw Floyd, toting a rifle, running toward the direction in which they left.
“He aimed the gun and discharged a round,” Rees said. “I could see the stock and trigger of the gun, but not the barrel.”
Rees said he heard one shot from the rifle, then three shots from a different type of gun — which he identified as a smaller caliber weapon — another shot from the rifle, then three more shots from the other weapon.
“The rifle was shot first,” he said.
In his cross-examination, McLeod pointed out that Rees’ initial statement to police did not specify which gun he heard first.
But Elmore noted that police had not asked Rees which gunshots he heard first.
The defense is expected to call witnesses next week, with closing statements possibly Tuesday or Wednesday.

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