A man accused of shooting one man to death and nearly killing another in Upland last year testified Tuesday that he is being wrongly accused of murder.
Michael Terrell Moore said the actual shooter, an acquaintance he knew by the nickname “Yogi,” was standing only a few feet away from him when “Yogi” fired several rounds from a handgun at a passing car.
Steve Reina, the driver, was shot in the back of the head but survived despite losing an eye. Daniel Gonzalez, 19, was killed after being shot in the back.
On the afternoon of March 10, 2007, Moore and eight to 10 other young men were standing at the intersection of Diamond Court and Vallejo Way in the Diamond Court Apartments in Upland.
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Moore testified Tuesday that Reina owed him about $100 for marijuana he sold him, and that he said so aloud to a member of the group before Reina drove by.
Moore said he believes “Yogi,” whose real name is James Daquan Thomas, may have overheard the remark and been motivated to shoot Reina over the perceived slight.
As Reina approached the group, “Yogi started acting fidgety,” Moore said Tuesday. “He started acting weird.”
Moore said “Yogi” pulled a handgun out from under his shirt and opened fire on Reina’s car as it passed. After he heard the first shots, Moore said he ran away from the area.
Moore, 22, of Pomona, testified Tuesday afternoon for an hour and 10 minutes. He was well-groomed and dressed in a white buttoned-down shirt, black pants, and a blue-and-black striped tie.
When Moore was detained by Upland police two days after the shooting, he initially told officers he was not at the apartment complex when the shooting took place.
After he was told by police that he was being arrested on murder charges, his story changed, he testified Tuesday.
He acknowledged during cross-examination from Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Youngberg that he initially lied to police, but he maintained that since his arrest he has been consistent in his story about “Yogi” being the shooter.
Possibly the most damaging piece of corroborating evidence presented by Youngberg at Moore’s trial is the discovery of shell casings under the hood of Moore’s Lexus sedan that match the casings found at the murder scene in ballistics tests.
On Tuesday, Moore said he believed the casings got there after an earlier instance when “Yogi” fired his gun in the air while standing beside Moore’s car.
Youngberg said during a break from testimony Tuesday that she believes the shells found in the car were not shells from bullets fired on March 10, 2007, but were left there after an earlier time Moore discharged the murder weapon.
Youngberg said the murder weapon was never recovered, but one of the young men who was standing at the corner during the shooting identified Moore as the shooter during testimony.
Reina also said he saw Moore ducking behind a car before the shooting, as if preparing to shoot, Youngberg said.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday in Moore’s trial.