The doctor who performed the autopsy on the body of a gunshot victim testified, Tuesday, that the bullet that killed the man was fired from about three feet away, and above his left shoulder.
Defendant Tony Van, 28, told police he shot Jonathan Pringe, 20, on Sept. 18, 2010, in self-defense. Pringe was sitting in the front passenger seat of Van's Acura at the time. Van told police Pringe opened the door after being shot and fell onto a Forest Park street. Medics picked up Pringe from the street and took him to Southern Regional Medical Center, where he died two hours later.
Van fled the area and was arrested three days later in Mount Zion, a small municipality in Carroll County.
Mount Zion Police Officer Dean Maddox testified, Tuesday, that he responded to a 911 call about a suspect in a Clayton County murder being inside a home on Bunny Trail. Maddox said he found Van asleep on the couch of a family friend.
"I entered the house with my service weapon drawn," said Maddox. "He was laying on his stomach on the couch with his arms underneath him. I told him to show me his hands and he did. I got him to the floor and cuffed him, and detained him for Clayton County."
Maddox's incident report states that Van made a voluntary statement.
"'I shot him in self-defense cause he was going to cut me,'" Van allegedly told Maddox.
Other witnesses who took the stand, Tuesday, said Pringe did not have a knife on him the day he died. Witnesses on the stand, Monday, had also testified that Pringe was not known by them to carry a knife.
Clayton County police allege that Van shot Pringe in an argument over money.
Several of Pringe's relatives burst into tears and left the courtroom when photos of Pringe were introduced into evidence. Van showed no emotion during the testimony.
Dr. Eric August Eason performed the autopsy on Pringe at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab. Eason said that Pringe's entrance wound showed no soot or stippling. "The gun was far enough away that only the bullet hit the target," said Eason. "A good guess is that the gun was 2-and-a-half to 3 feet away. The bullet was headed down, and from the left to the right when fired."
Photo evidence presented by Clayton County prosecutors shows that Van would have had to fire the gun from outside his car, on the driver's side, which could weaken his claim of self-defense. Testimony will continue in the case Wednesday.
It is not known if Van will testify in his own behalf, but defendants who fire a gun in self-defense typically take the stand to explain the events leading up to the shooting. Van has the right to remain silent and the jury will be instructed to not consider that silence against him during deliberations.
Van is being represented by defense attorneys Cal Leipold and Robert Levinson. Clayton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco is heading up the prosecution. Van is being held without bond in the Clayton County Jail. If convicted of murder, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.