A Paso Robles man on trial for allegedly murdering his mother’s boyfriend took the witness stand for the first time Thursday, claiming that his late father had instructed him to leave nothing to chance if using a gun in self-defense.
John Steven Danner, 25, is accused of shooting 47-year-old Billy Don Law 13 times in a rural home the two shared with Danner’s mother and a childhood friend on Feb. 7, 2014. Danner has pleaded not guilty, claiming Law charged at him after Danner pulled a handgun and warned Law to end a loud argument with his mother.
During the last hour of testimony Thursday, Danner testified briefly about his upbringing, his relationship with Law and drug use within the household.
He said he inherited a number of items from his late father, including several knives and a .45-caliber Glock 21 handgun with a 13-round magazine. He said he learned how to shoot from his father, who he said told him to shoot to kill in life-threatening situations.
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“He told me to shoot all the bullets in the gun (at an attacker),” Danner said. “You don’t want them to be able to retaliate.”
Danner recalled moving into Law’s house on the roughly 100-acre property on the outskirts of the city when his mother moved in, about two years prior to the shooting. He said he and Law got along well in the first year, hiking, hunting and shooting together on and around the property, but things became tense in the house after the electricity was shut off.
He said that he had begun using methamphetamine around the time he moved in and would use drugs with Law, though he hid his habit from his mother.
Danner’s defense has characterized Law as a drug user who was known for making threats and prone to violent outbursts.
Earlier Thursday, jurors heard from a friend of the household who accompanied Law on various recreational excursions for about two years prior to the shooting who said Law was normally calm but could blow like a “volcano.”
“When Billy blew, you didn’t try to talk to Billy, you didn’t try to stop Billy,” Jack Shetler testified. “You just step back or you would get hurt.”
Shetler also told Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham that Danner was being unfairly prosecuted.
Danner is expected to continue his testimony Friday.