QUINCY – Gregory Chad Wallin-Reed admits he fired an assault weapon at a car carrying six young men, but whether he fired in anger or self-defense is at the crux of his murder trial in Plumas Superior Court.
In opening arguments Tuesday, Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister said Wallin-Reed, 38, was in no imminent danger July 2, 2011, when he chased the car driven by Rory McGuire from his cabin near Janesville along back roads toward Antelope Lake.
The men, who were 19 and 20 at the time and all of Susanville, were in the process of stealing solar lights from Wallin-Reed's property.
"He was angry at them and shooting at them as they tried to get away," Hollister said.
McGuire, 20, of Susanville died of gunshot wounds to his head two days after the chase. Two of his passengers suffered wounds to their lower legs.
Wallin-Reed's defense team described him as a man trying to protect his family after being disturbed at their rural cabin two nights in a row by a car without license plates full of "shouting and yelling" men.
Defense attorney John Ohlson said Wallin-Reed fired a warning shot from his porch to defend his wife, children and friends, who were all visiting the cabin for the Fourth of July weekend. Then he chased the car 7.6 miles up a rural road.
He was trying to identify the vehicle when shots were fired from McGuire's car, Ohlson said.
"Because they shot at him, he returned fire," he said.
Hollister said no one in McGuire's car had a gun. When Wallin-Reed began shooting at their car, they tossed out the solar light they had stolen and held a white flag out the window, he said.
After they missed a turn and began heading up a dirt road, they turned around and came to a stop. That's when Wallin-Reed drove up to the car and began firing at them.
"The defendant was not shooting at tires. He was shooting at heads," Hollister said. "When you see the amount of ammunition he had – he was ready for war. Those kids didn't have a chance."
Ohlson said he plans to produce forensic evidence that a gun was fired from McGuire's car. By the morning after the shootings, the crime scene was so "befouled" it is impossible to know whether it might have produced the gun itself, he said.
His instructions were clear to the jury of 10 women and two men: "Your job is not to solve a mystery. Your job is to decide if (the young men) had a gun."
In addition to murder and the use of a firearm in McGuire's death, Wallin-Reed faces charges of firing at an occupied vehicle, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of an illegal assault rifle. The trial is expected to last four more weeks.