Justin Green testified Tuesday that he shot Jose Ramirez twice in an act of self-defense. His testimony took up much of the afternoon in an emotional day four of the Clay County murder trial.
Green, 31, formerly of Petrolia, told the jury that on Aug. 9, 2007, he shot and killed Ramirez at a Petrolia residence after his friend and fellow Army veteran threatened to kill Green and his family.
Nervous and soft-spoken, Green detailed how he came to know Ramirez, and El Centro, Calif., man who was in the same unit at Fort Sill, Okla., and during a 2006 deployment to Iraq, and how Ramirez came to live with Justin Green, his mother and sister in May 2007.
Green also detailed events that occurred immediately before and after he shot Ramirez at the home on FM 2332, south of Petrolia.
Terri Green, the mother of Justin Green and Brittany Green, testified on Tuesday that on the afternoon of Aug. 8, 2007, she came into the house with her 15-month-old grandson to find a door between the garage and living room area closed. When she opened the door, Ramirez was pointing a pistol at her.
Justin Green said in his testimony that when he arrived home his mother told him of the incident, and said Ramirez had “worn out his welcome.” Green waited until the next morning to confront Ramirez. Green said he walked into Ramirez’s room to find his friend sitting on the bed with two handguns and a rifle.
“I let him know that momma had told me he pulled a gun on her, and that ‘you are not welcome here anymore,’” said Justin Green in his testimony.
Green said Ramirez began to curse at him about God, him and his family, and said, “I’m going to kill you and your whole family.” Green said Ramirez lay across the bed to reach a 44-caliber semiautomatic pistol. “That’s when I grabbed the rifle.”
Despite an earlier statement by Defense Attorney Dustin Nimz that Green had used a 9 mm pistol, Green testified on Tuesday that he grabbed the weapon closest to him, a 9 mm Hi-Point military-style rifle.
The rifle belonged to Green.
“I just grabbed it and pointed it in his direction and started pulling the trigger,” said Green. The defendant stated that he shot the weapon twice but three bullet holes were found in the room. Two rounds struck Ramirez in the head and face.
Green testified that his only thought after the shooting was to get help for Ramirez, and that’s why he dragged him to the garage. When Ramirez fell to the floor of the bedroom, Green said he “ran over and asked, ‘Why, Jose why?’”
Green called his mother at work, telling her there had been an emergency. Terri Green testified that she arrived home to find the body of Ramirez lying on the garage floor. She said Justin Green appeared to be scared and “in shock.”
Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Kevin Henry asked Justin Green and Terri Green why they did not call an ambulance or police after the shooting. Justin Green said he did not think investigators would believe him. Terri Green said Justin Green asked her not to call police and told her to go back to work.
“I was so scared and my son was so scared that I panicked,” said Terri Green. “I would have never imagined that I would have done something like that. I wanted to call the police, but Justin was crying, ‘No, mom no.’”
Terri Green, an alleged co-conspirator in covering up the death, left the house before Justin Green buried Ramirez. She said she did not look in Ramirez’s room until the next day, when she saw blood on the floor. She patched at least one bullet hole in the wall on the outside of Ramirez’s room, but left holes inside the room untouched.
Justin Green said he took Ramirez’s body to a salt flat at the back of the 160-acre property, where he found an old pick and began to dig. He said he dug for 10 or 15 minutes. Ramirez’s was placed face down in the grave.
Justin Green first testified that he did not tell sister Brittany Green or Stephanie Corral, a family friend, that he had shot Ramirez, but in questioning by the ADA, said he might have told them.
In the months that followed, Justin Green, Brittany Green and Corral used a debit card in Ramirez’s name to spend more than $9,000 from a bank account owned by Ramirez. Justin Green also gave some of Ramirez’s weapons, as well as the gun used to shoot Ramirez, to friends “to hold.” Justin Green testified that the rest of Ramirez’s firearms, including a pistol Green gave to his sister and friend, were stolen.
Brittany testified Tuesday that she had known about the shooting since August 2007, and told several other people, but did not tell police. She also testified to spending Ramirez’s money.
“You thought that Ramirez didn’t have any family, or any family that cared about him,” said Henry.
“Yes,” replied Brittany Green.
Reuben Carrillo of El Centro, Calif., testified Tuesday that he is the uncle of Ramirez. Carrillo said Ramirez lived with him while in high school and they stayed in touch through Ramirez’s time in the military, beginning in May 2002.
Carrillo’s last contact with Ramirez came in mid 2005.
“He told me he was going to have this training and he wouldn’t have communication for a few months,” said Carrillo through an interpreter. “I wasn’t worried about him because I knew he was in this training.”
Carrillo said 11 months later he began to worry about Ramirez after receiving a suspicious letter from a cellular phone company about a phone number in Ramirez’s name. Carrillo called the number and an unknown woman answered. When he called back, the number had been disconnected.
“I thought maybe he had began an new life,” said Carrillo of Ramirez.
In October 2007, not knowing Ramirez had been discharged, Carrillo requested information on the whereabouts of his nephew from the U.S. Army. He also filed a missing person’s report with California authorities and contacted the Red Cross, the veterans’ affairs and his local congressman.
When shown photos of Ramirez in army uniform, Carrillo began to cry.
“That’s exactly what he was,” said Carrillo.