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Published March 15 2012

Estrada says shooting was self-defense

FARGO – Felipe Estrada choked back tears Thursday as he described how Juan Garza, the ex-husband of his ex-girlfriend, ambushed him with a gun in the parking lot of West Acres 14 Cinema on June 5.

“I was very scared,” he testified through an interpreter. “I saw everything go white.”

Estrada, on trial for attempted murder, testified that when he started dating DeShawn Stodola, Garza’s ex-wife, the man threatened him multiple times.

“I’ve been afraid of him ever since I’ve heard of him,” Estrada said, adding that he slept with a loaded gun under his pillow because he felt unsafe.

Estrada said Stodola called him on June 5 and asked if he could give her some money for gas. When he agreed, she asked him to meet in the movie theater parking lot.

When he arrived there, Estrada testified that a van being driven by Garza and a car being driven by Garza’s friend, Charles Roskom, arrived at nearly the same time. Garza got out of the van first, Estrada said, and yelled, “I’m going to (expletive) you up.”

Estrada testified he was hit by the car and knocked to the ground. Then, he saw that Garza had a gun, and ran back to his truck to get his own. Estrada’s first shot didn’t work, so he cocked the pistol and fired again, eventually hitting Garza.

“I was just defending myself,” he said.

Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney Gary Euren tried to point out inconsistencies in Estrada’s testimony, especially that no other witness said Garza had a gun and that Estrada said Garza never fired.

When Euren asked Estrada how many times Garza tried to fire, Estrada replied, “Nine times.”

“And he never pulled the trigger?” Euren asked.

Estrada shook his head.

Euren also asked Estrada why he didn’t tell the police Garza had a gun when he was first interviewed after his arrest.

“I was injured. I was confused, and the way they were asking questions – I didn’t know what was going on,” Estrada said.

Estrada, 45, faces an aggravated assault charge for allegedly pistol-whipping Roskom in the head during the scuffle. He also faces two counts of reckless endangerment for shots fired at Stodola and the theater.

Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for this morning.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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