COLUMBIA — The defense’s first witness told the Callaway County jury Wednesday that Grady Dortch Jr. pulled the trigger and killed Miles Heard to protect their lives.
Anthony Rainey, 28, of Columbia, said he sat in the passenger seat of Dortch’s car and watched Heard approach them.
“(Heard) got something out of the trunk of his car, and I feared for my life,” Rainey said. “I thought he had a gun on him.”
According to Rainey, Heard walked up to Dortch’s car door while holding his right hand behind his back. He taunted Dortch saying, “What’s up, now? Get out of the car!” Rainey testified.
In response, Dortch rolled down his window and fired three to four shots at Heard’s chest, Rainey said.
Dortch, 29, of Columbia has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. He is accused of shooting and killing Heard, 29, on Nov. 4, 2008, in Douglass Park over a dispute about counterfeit money.
The two men had a bitter friendship. On Halloween night last year, Columbia police were called to Peppers Night Club to break apart a fight between the two men.
The altercation started with Heard provoking Dortch and throwing a punch, Rainey said.
Heard hit Dortch 14 times while Dortch hit him back just once, Veronica Washington, sister of Heard’s fiancé, testified on Tuesday.
After the fight ended, Dortch wanted to get away from the turmoil between him and Heard, so he and Rainey took a trip to St. Louis, Rainey said.
When they returned to Columbia on Election Day, Rainey said he asked Dortch to drive him to Douglass Park because he wanted to purchase marijuana.
As Dortch pulled into Douglass Park, the parking lot was full of cars. The only available parking spots were across from Heard’s car, Rainey said.
In his testimony, Rainey showed the jurors how Heard and his friends were pointing and whispering to each other as he and Dortch parked the car.
When Dortch saw that Heard popped the trunk of his car to grab something, Dortch did the same, Rainey said.
“He got a gun,” Rainey said.
“How do you know that?” asked Boone County Public Defender David Wallis.
“I could see it,” he said. “(Dortch) set it on his lap.”
Rainey said that he saw Heard starting to approach them.
He said he told Dortch, “If we can avoid this, let’s avoid it, bro. Leave it alone.”
Dortch put the car in drive and pulled out of the parking spot, but the traffic in the park prevented them from leaving, Rainey said.
“Why didn’t you get out of the car and run?” asked Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks.
“I would rather take my chances at getting shot in the car than getting out of the car,” Rainey said.
After Dortch shot Heard, he drove away from the park and to the house of his girlfriend’s mother, Rainey testified.
Rainey said he received a phone call from a friend letting him know that Heard was dead.
Dortch's trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Thursday in Callaway County.
— Columbia Missourian reporter Tram Whitehurst contributed to this report.