Man testifies he shot boy in defense

July 31, 2008 6:32:28 PM PDT
A 19-year-old man tearfully testified Thursday that he shot a 14-year-old bicyclist during a road-rage incident last summer because he thought the boy was reaching under his shirt for a gun. "I didn't want to get shot," said Charles T. Meyers, who sobbed as he told jurors he was a polite 18-year-old who didn't swear and never held a gun before that day.

Meyers is charged with murder and firearm violations in the death of Tykeem Law on July 14, 2007.

When Assistant District Attorney Gonen Hacklay challenged Meyers' story, the man's tears stopped and he snapped.

Hacklay got Meyers to admit that he was driving with several small bags of marijuana in his lap and a gun near his feet when he lost his temper and got into a profanity-laced argument with Law, who didn't get out of the way when Meyers' car approached and he began honking.

Meyers said he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Law in the chest then sped away.

Law and a half-dozen friends were riding their bikes near the Italian Market in South Philadelphia when Meyers' car pulled up. Several people said they saw Law raise his hands, palms out, toward the car.

Five people testified during the three-day trial that Law made no threatening moves as Meyers inched the car toward him and shot him once, killing him. Law grabbed his chest and fell backward, they said.

But Meyers said those people - including two friends in Meyers' car, and an off-duty police officer in a vehicle behind them - all got it wrong. He said Law is the one who approached the car's passenger window, then put his hands under his shirt as if reaching for a weapon.

"He had his hands underneath his T-shirt and I was scared," Meyers said, crying. "I thought it was a gun. I didn't know what was going on, I didn't understand it."

Meyers shot Law with a .22-caliber revolver, smaller than the palm of a hand. He claims the gun was handed to him by a random person on the street and testified that he put the gun in the car for safekeeping and happened to be moving it away from his feet when Law approached him.

"The gun was already in my hand," Meyers said. "I pulled the trigger."

Hacklay called Meyers' story ridiculous and a "desperate attempt" to save himself.

"There's no question this little boy died for no reason," Hacklay said. "There's no question that (Meyers) is not the victim. Tykeem Law was not armed and didn't have anything on his person that was a weapon."

Defense attorney Daniel Conner said Law wasn't as innocent as he was made out to be.

"My client feared for his life," Conner said, and asked the jury to find that Meyers acted in self-defense.

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