A man who had a stranger shoot at him on a busy Northern Virginia street last summer says the shooter used a racial slur against him and then opened fire, missing him but hitting his girlfriend twice.
The shooter says he fired in a moment of panic and acted in self-defense.
The trial of Ernest Stickell, 59, began Tuesday in Alexandria, Virginia, less than a year after Stickell opened fire on Ricardo Jennings and Dejonte Holt the morning of Wednesday, July 19, 2017.
As News4 reported, the road rage clash began on the Beltway before 8 a.m., continued onto the Eisenhower Connector and left Holt, then 33, with gunshot wounds to the neck and shoulder.
Jennings testified Wednesday that Stickell cut off Holt's SUV twice, the couple got out to confront him, Stickell called Jennings the N-word and then Stickell opened fire.
Stickell's defense lawyer said Stickell had no idea why the couple confronted him and that he opened fire out of fear.
Jennings testified that Holt was giving him a ride to work when they were cut off twice by a white van. First, as they exited the Beltway, the driver went around them and slammed on the brakes. Then, he cut them off again on the Eisenhower Connector, he said.
Jennings said Holt then drove the SUV around the van and stopped in front of it. Then, they both got out.
"What's your problem?" Jennings said he asked Stickell.
He said Stickell cursed him and used the N-word.
Jennings, who is black, said he cursed back, calling Stickell, who is white, a "cracker."
He testified that Stickell then jumped out of the van with a gun and took aim at Holt's head. He fired multiple times and hit the woman in the neck and shoulder.
She fell to the ground, and Jennings said Stickell then fired twice more, trying to hit him.
Jennings ran and hid in the bushes, and Stickell drove off.
Witnesses chased him and got his license plate number, but he was able to get away.
Later in the day, Stickell, of Mechanicsville, Maryland, turned himself in to Maryland State Police in Frederick. He was charged with malicious wounding and use of a firearm in a felony.
Outside the Alexandria courthouse, Stickell himself told News4 on Tuesday that he would plead self-defense. He declined additional comment.
Holt, of Bladensburg, Maryland, is able to work after she was shot, but she copes with ongoing emotional distress.
Jennings' mother, Earlette Williams, told News4 on Tuesday that Stickell never should have opened fire.
"You don't bring a gun to a fistfight. It wasn't fair," she said. "It should not have happened. No one should use a gun for the wrong reason."
The jury has heard from several witnesses who saw the confrontation and shooting.
Stickell was the target of a racial harassment suit in 2001, as News4 previously reported. A man Stickell supervised at an auto glass company alleged that Stickell used racial slurs against him, against customers and even against Stickell's own wife, who was African American.
"In one particularly egregious episode, Stickell placed a picture of a monkey between the pages of a parts manual ... that Spriggs regularly used," court filings say. "Stickell had captioned the picture with X's and O's, along with the notation 'so you'll never forget who you are.'"
Stickell is expected to take the stand in his own defense soon.