Tyjuan Pearson told Lexington police and a Fayette County grand jury that he shot Dwayne "Man Man" Johnson Jr. early on June 13, 2009.
But Pearson, 25, of Cincinnati, said the fatal shot was in self defense.
The shooting occurred about 3:30 a.m. at the corner of Third and Race streets, outside the Pac-N-Save Market. There was a street party going on, with about 150 to 200 people milling about, some of them carrying guns in their clothing and some of them drinking. A large dice game was in progress; the Cobra Club had just let out, prosecution and defense attorneys told a Fayette Circuit Court jury Monday.
But the attorneys disagree on what happened next.
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Pearson's attorney says her client shot another armed man to protect himself, but prosecutors call it murder.
Pearson is charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with Johnson's death. His trial began Monday and is expected to last several days.
Johnson, 20, died at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital of a single gunshot wound to the head.
Assistant Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Todd Bradbury told the jury that Johnson's cousin, Karlan "A-1" Morton Jr., decided to get into the dice game and made the terrible mistake of bumping Pearson as he did so. Words were exchanged. Morton decided to leave and motioned for Johnson to come with him, the prosecutor said. He said Anthony Taylor, an eyewitness, saw Pearson walk up behind Johnson and shoot him. Johnson was shot in the back of the head at close range, he said.
But defense attorney Kate Dunn said that Morton shoved Pearson hard, and Pearson told him to stop. Morton then called Johnson over to him, she said. Brandon Ashley, another witness, saw Johnson reach into his "drawers" and heard five or six other people nearby drawing guns, Dunn said. Johnson was shot in the side of his head as he turned to draw his gun, she said.
Pearson told police "it was Man Man or me," Dunn said.
Morton took Johnson's gun after Johnson was shot and fired the weapon as he ran from the scene, attorneys on both sides said.
The real tough guy in the whole scenario was Karlan Morton, Dunn said.
"Karlan Morton is a bully and Karlan Morton is a big guy," she said.
But Bradbury said that Pearson essentially executed Johnson.
The trial continues Tuesday before Judge James Ishmael.