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Shot took five minutes to kill San Miguel woman, medical examiner testifies

A San Miguel woman bled to death within five minutes of being shot, allegedly by her husband, according to a medical examiner.

John Aaron Norris, 25, was in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Tuesday for the third day of testimony in his trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter and possession of an illegal semiautomatic rifle. He has pleaded not guilty.

Medical examiner Gary Walter testified that 24-year-old Tasha Dawn Norris died of blood loss and that her heart stopped no more than five minutes after the shooting on the afternoon of July 9.

John Norris told sheriff’s investigators he was taking bullets out of a handgun when he tripped over a dog in the couple’s living room and the gun went off.

Norris told investigators he tried to stop the bleeding and called 911 immediately.

The .45-caliber pistol was in the couple’s living room because a neighbor with mental problems had walked inside the home uninvited around the time of the incident, which made Norris “paranoid,” he said.

Norris had been handling the semiautomatic pistol because he was planning to remove the ammunition before fire inspectors came to his home later that day to examine new sprinklers. The Norrises lived in a condominium in the 500 block of 11th Street in San Miguel.

Walter said it was impossible to tell whether the bullet penetrated Tasha Norris from a particular angle.

John Norris told police he fired upward at her as he was falling.

The bullet penetrated her lungs and exited her back, Walter said.

Investigators estimate the shooting happened from between 6 and 10 feet away, which is consistent with Walter’s testimony about the appearance of the wound on Tasha Norris’ body.

Walter also testified that the woman’s lung collapsed, which makes it very hard to breathe.

Also on the stand Tuesday was District Attorney’s Office investigator Scott Odom, who said the Taurus 911 pistol that fired the bullet has four safety features.

Odom demonstrated to jurors how the bullets are loaded into the chamber and how a gun is emptied of its ammunition.

He said that anyone using a firearm should assume every weapon is loaded, never point a gun at anything they don’t want to destroy, keep fingers off a trigger until their sight is aligned with a target and a conscious decision to fire is made, and be aware of a target and background.

Defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu asked Odom if he was following all of those rules as he was demonstrating the features of the gun to the jury.

Funke-Bilu said that he believed the gun with dummy bullets had been pointed at him and some jurors. Odom acknowledged that he may have violated those rules in the demonstration.

In questioning Odom about the alleged illegal semiautomatic AR 15 rifle, which was not the gun that shot Tasha Norris, Funke-Bilu asked Odom if he knew the gun was legally purchased by his client in Mississippi. Funke-Bilu said Norris has a receipt for it.

Odom said he wasn’t aware of the gun laws in Mississippi, saying only that he knows that type of firearm is illegal here.

Prosecutor Matt Kerrigan rested his case Tuesday afternoon, and Funke-Bilu plans to make his opening statements today.

The trial continues this morning in Judge Michael Duffy’s courtroom at 10:30.

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