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Murder suspect testifies shooting was self-defense during drug buy

First-degree murder defendant Fabian Hernandez, 19, told a jury Tuesday he was selling crack cocaine to Henry Sherlock when Sherlock grabbed his wrist and started driving away.

Hernandez said that’s when he pulled a gun and fired, not intending to kill Sherlock but because “I was scared I would be dragged.”

Hernandez took the witness stand as the first defense witness in his trial, which began last week.

He is accused of fatally shooting Sherlock in the head and kidnapping Lottie Payne at gunpoint moments later on Aug. 16, 2008, at the Desert Willows Trailer Park, 6001 S. Palo Verde Blvd., near the Benson Highway.

Prosecutors said he pulled her from an SUV and took her purse.

Hernandez denied kidnapping and robbing Payne, 49.

Hernandez said he approached an SUV, asked the woman in it if she wanted to buy crack or marijuana, and she stepped out of the vehicle to talk with him about buying drugs.

Hernandez said he had her purse because she asked him to hold it while she looked for money.

Hernandez said he fled and hid when he heard police arrive at the shooting scene.

He said he took off the black T-shirt he was wearing and left it on the ground before going inside the rental trailer where he lived with his girlfriend.

Prosecutors said Hernandez asked the girlfriend and two other friends to lie for him about his actions that night.

A police surveillance aircraft shot video of Hernandez entering the trailer. He eventually surrendered.

Detectives found the handgun used in the shooting and the cell phone Hernandez used before he approached Sherlock, 39, prosecutors said.

Fingerprint evidence linked both to Hernandez, prosecutors said.

On Tuesday, Hernandez admitted he dumped the .45-caliber semiautomatic Ruger at the trailer park and tossed the phone.

Previously, he claimed he knew nothing about the shooting.

Prosecutor Kellie Johnson cross-examined Hernandez on Tuesday, asking him why he waited until Tuesday to disclose that he acted without premeditation, that he didn’t plan to kill Sherlock and “reacted without thinking” by firing his gun after Sherlock allegedly grabbed his wrist or forearm.

Hernandez said he lied to investigators about his involvement but decided Tuesday to say he had acted in self-defense because he felt he was in danger.

“Where I come from, you don’t trust the police,” he said.

Sherlock’s 11-year-old son testified earlier Tuesday that Hernandez ran up to the Hernandez vehicle and shot his father in the head as they drove out of the trailer park.

The boy said he was in the back seat behind the driver’s seat and saw his father get shot and slump over.

“Everything went white,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Hernandez asked for a new lawyer, telling Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo he didn’t like public defender Kyle Ipson and wanted to represent himself.

Leonardo denied Hernandez new counsel and the trial continued. Hernandez’s attorneys had said in court documents that Hernandez was unable to help with his defense because of unspecified behavior.

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