Jurors hear sharply different views of Eugene shooting death


EUGENE — Either Zachary Beauchamp recklessly fired his .40 caliber pistol into a crowded Eugene apartment and accidentally killed his teenage friend, or he acted in self-defense after two larger men waylaid him at the gathering.

A prosecutor and a defense attorney handling Beauchamp's manslaughter trial in Lane County Circuit Court offered a jury starkly contrasting theories on the violence that erupted Aug. 30 during a party in a third-floor unit at the Stadium Park Apartments.

Lane County Assistant District Attorney JoAnn Miller told the eight-man, four-woman jury in her opening statement that the state's evidence shows that Beauchamp, while outside the apartment, deliberately fired one shot through the unit's front door and a second through an exterior wall.

Both bullets entered the apartment, and one of them struck and killed 17-year-old Eugene resident Justin Gardner, who had arrived at the party with Beauchamp and another man who pleaded guilty last week to firing a gun during the incident.

“Talk about reckless,” Miller said of Beauchamp's actions, which she said “scared the bejesus out of everyone” inside the apartment.

Beauchamp, 19, of Eugene is charged with first-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors allege that he killed Gardner in a reckless act and do not accuse Beauchamp of intentionally shooting the teenager. If convicted of the crime, he will be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“I'll expect you to hold him accountable,” Miller told the jury Tuesday. Beauchamp also is charged with unlawful use of a weapon, menacing and recklessly endangering another person.

After Miller spoke to jurors, defense attorney Jacob Daniels took his turn summarizing the case. He said in his opening statement that Beauchamp fired in self-defense and ended up being “charged with the crime of killing his friend.”

Daniels asserted that Beauchamp was minding his own business at the party when two taller men confronted him and tried to take his backpack, which contained the gun. Beauchamp, according to Daniels, tussled with the men before the pair “retreated” back into the apartment. Beauchamp then shot through the door and the outside wall in order to protect himself and a second gunman, 20-year-old Springfield resident Sean Edward Jones, Daniels said.

“He believed these attackers were coming from within” the apartment, Daniels told the jury in explaining why Beauchamp fired into the crowded residence.

After opening statements, Miller called four partygoers to testify for the state. Two said they saw Beauchamp being led out of the apartment by two men moments before the shooting.

“Everyone knew they were going to fight,” witness Desiree O'Donnell testified, referring to Beauchamp and one of the other two men.

The situation became frightening, according to trial testimony, after Jones apparently noticed Beauchamp being escorted out the door and pulled out his own pistol. Jones then fired several rounds while inside the apartment but did not injure anyone.

Witnesses said some people dropped to the floor when the shooting started, while others ran from the unit and gathered on a balcony.

“At that point we were just scared,” Delilah Berger testified.

After the gunfire had ended, the group saw that Gardner had been shot.

The apartment “was pretty empty, and Justin was lying on the ground,” witness Dyrall Goods told the jury.

Miller said one of the bullets fired by Beauchamp struck Gardner in the head and killed him.

Beauchamp and Jones fled the scene but were later arrested. Beauchamp told police in a recorded interview that he had indeed fired his gun through the door, but did so because he thought he was about to be attacked.

Jones, meanwhile, pleaded guilty last week to charges of unlawful use of a weapon, menacing and recklessly endangering another person. He is expected to testify against Beauchamp, and his plea deal calls for him to be sentenced to 15 months in prison when he returns to court Dec. 17.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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