OAKLAND (BCN) — An Oakland man admitted on the witness stand today that he fatally shot a woman in front of her 5-year-old son last year but said he did so only because he thought his life was in danger.
Rasheed Strane, 24, said, “I was just trying to protect myself” when he fired five shots into a car at 72nd and Lacey Avenues in East Oakland at about 9:40 p.m. on Aug. 17, 2013, one of which killed 39-year-old Rebecca Viera.
Strane, who was dressed in a suit and tie, said he fired the shots because Viera’s boyfriend, Joseph Johnson, had threatened to shoot him.
“All I could think of was to survive,” he said, and, “I just started squeezing the trigger.”
He said he was aiming at Johnson, who was wounded in the shooting, but asserted that, “My intention wasn’t to kill anybody” and he didn’t know that Viera and her son were in the car with Johnson.
Strane admitted that before today he never told anyone that he acted in self-defense in the incident, saying that he didn’t want to be considered a snitch because he didn’t want to put his life and the lives of his family members at risk.
He said he decided to testify about the shooting because, “I got to let people know why I did what I did” even though he now fears that he might get beaten or even killed in jail and he might be putting his family members in danger.
Strane is charged with murder, attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle.
Although prosecutor Melissa Dooher and defense attorney Ernie Castillo disagreed in their opening statements about whether Strane is guilty of murder, they agreed that the shooting occurred because of jealousy and a dispute over an inoperable BB gun.
Both attorneys said the trouble began after Latanya Evans, who was a friend of Viera’s, loaned a BB gun that belonged to Evans’ boyfriend, Matthew Washington, to Strane so that Strane could use it to commit a robbery.
Washington was in custody at the time on suspicion of writing fraudulent checks, although he was never charged in the case, Dooher said.
Evans wanted to get the BB gun back from Strane without letting Washington find out that she had loaned it to Strane because Washington was jealous of Strane, Dooher said.
In addition, Brittney McNary, who was Strane’s girlfriend, was jealous of Evans, according to Dooher.
Tensions developed between McNary and Evans and Viera sided with Evans and wanted to watch the other two women fight, Dooher said.
The prosecutor told jurors that Strane should be convicted of murder, alleging that Strane “ambushed” Viera and Johnson when they arrived to watch the planned fight between McNary and Evans.
But Castillo said Strane acted in self-defense and should be found not guilty.
Strane testified today that he was “scared” on the night of Aug. 17, 2013, because Johnson phoned him twice and threatened him, alleging that Strane had “taken advantage” of Evans while Washington was in jail.
Strane said he armed himself with a .38-caliber revolver he had bought to protect himself the previous month and tried to sneak out his apartment but alleged that Johnson approached him in his car on the street nearby.
Strane said Johnson pointed a long, black object at him that he thought was “a rifle or something” but ultimately turned out to be a machete.
Strane said he opened fire because that because of the way Johnson was holding the object, “I thought it was a gun since he had told me on the phone that he would shoot me.”
When Dooher expressed skepticism that Strane really thought he was putting himself in danger by taking the witness stand and testifying that he acted in self-defense, Strane said, “The snitch (stuff) is real. It ain’t no game. People really hurt people.”
Strane’s trial will resume on Monday.
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