The trial of a 25-year-old man charged in the San Miguel shooting death of his wife began Friday and included the showing of a video of the defendant’s police interview.
John Aaron Norris has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and possession of an illegal weapon, a semi-automatic rifle.
The video of his interview conducted by Sheriff’s Department officials showed the San Luis Obispo Superior Court jury a distraught man who said the shooting of 24-year-old Tasha Dawn Norris was accidental and that he tried to save her life.
Norris covered his face in his hands at times during the interview and broke down in tears at one point while describing what happened in the living room of his San Miguel home on 11th Street on the afternoon of July 9.
Norris said that as he was handling a gun in the living room — a Taurus 911 pistol — he tripped over a dog.
He said he had the gun in the room because a neighbor with mental problems had recently walked inside his family’s home uninvited and it made him paranoid.
Norris said he squeezed the trigger as he clenched his fist to brace himself for the fall. He said the gun fired and the bullet struck his wife, who was sitting on a sofa nearby.
Norris said he immediately tried to apply pressure to the wound on Tasha Norris’ chest and called 911.
Norris said he asked his wife, “Are you all right, baby?” and apologized to her.
As he was trying to help her, Norris said that Tasha Norris told him, “No matter what happens, I love you.”
Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan said in his opening statements that Norris was an active military man who was trained in using guns.
Kerrigan said that safety features on the handgun could have prevented the shooting, including a safety device on the grip that engages when a person holds it by the handle.
Another safety switch on the gun has to be turned off to allow the gun to fire, Kerrigan said. The pistol also has to be cocked to fire, the prosecutor added.
Kerrigan said that the bullet passed through Tasha Norris’ lungs.
She was pronounced dead at the scene.
During questioning from defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu, sheriff’s Deputy Matt Terrell said Norris tried to help his wife as Terrell kept him away while medics worked on her.
Terrell said that Norris was crying, emotional and distant in his responses to his questions after the incident.
“Periodically he’d look away,” Terrell said. “He often had no immediate response. … He was crying intermittently.”