One of two young men charged with murder for a shooting outside a BART station in San Leandro last year that claimed the life of a 50-year-old innocent bystander admitted today that he fired the bullet that killed the older man.
But 19-year-old Jabrie Bennett of Oakland said he was firing in self-defense at another young man and didn’t intend to shoot and kill Kenneth Lee Seets of Fremont, who was waiting to catch a bus when he was shot outside the Bay Fair BART station at about 12:20 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2013.
Bennett said, “I accidentally killed him.”
Prosecutor Mark Melton said in his opening statement last month that Bennett and co-defendant Andre Smith, also 19, didn’t know each other before the shooting but both were armed with guns and opened fire after they and their friends traded insults and got into a war of words.
Melton alleged that Bennett fired the shot that killed Seets but said he believes Smith is equally responsible because he lifted his jacket, placed his hand on his gun and walked toward Bennett, an action that he said prompted Bennett to open fire.
Bennett testified today that he pulled a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle from his duffle bag and opened fire because someone from Smith’s group of friends was walking toward him with a gun.
But under questioning by Smith’s lawyer, Barbara Thomas, who claims that Smith didn’t cause the shooting, Bennett admitted that the person who was walking toward him, whom he didn’t identify, didn’t have his gun drawn.
When Thomas told Bennett that, “You’re a killer,” Bennett replied, “No, I’m not, I accidentally killed someone.”
Bennett explained that “a killer is someone who kills for living” and said he doesn’t fit that description because the fatal shooting of Seets was only an accident.
Bennett also admitted that he didn’t know where Seets was when he opened fire at Smith and his friends.
He said Seets “didn’t pose a threat so I probably didn’t pay more attention to him.”
According to Melton, Bennett initially fired three shots, fell after he backed into a pole, and then fired seven more shots, one of which killed Seets, who was sitting near Smith.
The prosecutor said Smith’s younger brother responded by firing five shots at Bennett’s group. Smith’s brother is being prosecuted separately in juvenile court.
Bennett’s lawyer, William Locke, has said he believes Bennett started shooting only because he was afraid that Smith was going to shoot him and he thinks Bennett should only be prosecuted for manslaughter, not for murder.