HONOLULU (AP) — A State Department special agent accused of murder after he shot and killed a man at a Waikiki McDonald’s in 2011 said he displayed his credentials and identified himself as a law enforcement officer in an attempt to defuse a hostile situation from escalating.
Federal agent Christopher Deedy began testifying in his own defense Tuesday, one month into his trial in the killing of Kollin Elderts of Kailua.
He said Elderts was aggressively bothering a customer. “The way he was acting, I thought there was a possibility he was under the influence of alcohol,” Deedy said of Elderts.
For much of his testimony, he stood up to address the jury, using a pointer to describe footage from the restaurant’s surveillance footage. Deedy said he walked over to Elderts’ table and asked what was going on. Deedy described angry responses laced with expletives.
“He said you’re not going to arrest me, do you have a gun,” Deedy testified Elderts said when he identified himself. “That was not the response I had anticipated.”
Deedy said the confrontation escalated and he believed Elderts was going to assault him. He said he tried to kick Elderts to push him away after Elderts lowered one of his shoulders and quickly came toward him, but Elderts was able to counter by grabbing his heel.
Judge Karen Ahn broke the trial for the day as Deedy testified about the moments before the shots were fired.
Deedy, 29, began by describing his training, saying he started working for the State Department in June 2009. He was in Honolulu to help provide security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Deedy said Elderts threatened him and called him a haole — the Hawaiian term for a white person — in a derogatory way.
He also testified about his training, relating that to how he handled the McDonald’s situation. “At the time when I intervened, it’s something I learned in training,” He said. “If you intervene when an assault is occurring you’ve already failed at your job.”
When asked by his attorney, Brook Hart, whether he carries a weapon at all times, Deedy said: “I personally choose to.”
Deedy’s defense lawyers contend that he was acting in self-defense and protecting others during the deadly altercation in the early morning hours at the restaurant.
“Your weapon is a deadly weapon,” Deedy said. “It’s a great responsibility.”
Prosecutors have argued the shooting was caused by intoxication and Deedy’s inexperience. Deedy, from Arlington, Va., was out bar-hopping with friends.
Deedy said he drank “roughly four beers, maybe less,” from about 8:45 p.m. to 2:15 a.m., after flying from Washington, D.C. to Honolulu. He said four is his limit when he’s armed. “I always try to drink responsibly…to keep myself from being under the influence.”
Elderts died of a single gunshot wound to the chest during a fight with Deedy.
Witnesses have testified that Deedy started the fight by kicking Elderts. The defense claims he was protecting a customer from being bullied by Elderts.
“An officer is not required to receive the attack before he uses any defensive maneuver,” Deedy said, describing how agents are trained to assess “pre-assault indicators” including body language.
Deedy often looked at jurors as he explained his training and gave information about his personal life, including that he was born in Worcester, Mass., spent time in Japan and graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with a degree in economics. He got married in February 2011, months before the deadly encounter on Nov. 5, 2011.
He seemed more relaxed after a lunch break, when he testified about what happened before he arrived at the McDonald’s, even at one point joking about being excited to be able to buy a burger at the airport before his early morning flight and about hearing bad karaoke at a Chinatown bar.
Kelleher can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jenhapa