Man Says Safeguarding His Home Led To Shooting

March 17, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

A General Electric mechanic told a Harford Circuit Court jury Thursday that he was shot four times when he mistakenly tried to enter a neighbor's Aberdeen apartment.

Rodolfo R. Gracia Jr., a contractor at Aberdeen Proving Ground, was the prosecution's lead witness in the trial of Richard J. Leftwich.

Leftwich, 25, accused of shooting Gracia last April 28, was beingtried on charges of attempted murder, assault with intent to murder,assault and battery, and use of a handgun.

The case was still being argued by jurors at The Harford County Sun's deadline late Friday.

Following closing arguments by lawyers Friday afternoon, just before the case went to jurors, Leftwich told the court he shot Gracia to protect his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter.

"Ladies and gentlemen, six days, six weeks, six months from now, you could be where I'm at just by protecting your home and your family.

"I wish theman never had gotten shot. I wish that night had never happened."

But Assistant State's Attorney Michael Sanger, as part of his closing argument, said that Leftwich acted in a premeditated manner. He noted that Leftwich kept a loaded pistol in the living room, took the gun to the door andopened the locked door. Gracia, who now lives in Carroll County, told the jury of seven men and five women that Leftwich shot him without provocation.

"(Leftwich) opened the door," Gracia, 26, said. "He told me, 'So you're trying to break into my apartment,' and he shot me in the stomach.

"It felt like somebody hit you in the stomach and didn't take out their fist," he said.

Gracia, who spent 3 1/2 hours on the witness stand before Judge Maurice O. Baldwin Jr., said Leftwich also shot him in upper right arm, his neck andthe back of his left arm.

"(Leftwich) said, 'Get the hell out of my house before I finish killing you,' " Gracia testified. "I thoughtI was going to die in there or die while I was trying to get out."

The weapon was identified by police as a Jennings .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

Leftwich's wife, Wendy, testified for the defense that her husband warned Gracia to leave, but he refused. She said she listened to the confrontation from the kitchen, where she was hiding.

Gracia said he mistakenly went to Leftwich's apartment in the400 block of Plaza Court at about 9:30 p.m. Gracia said he had livedacross from Leftwich's apartment in the Windsor Apartments complex.

He said he had drunk about nine beers and three shots of whiskey when he went home, assuming he was at his apartment.

his home led to shooting

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