Easter takes the stand; Claims to have seen victim reach for gun
Published 8:10 am Thursday, April 13, 2017
ALBERT LEA — The Brownsdale man charged with murdering a rural Freeborn County man last August at Myre-Big Island State Park claimed in court Wednesday that he saw the other man reach for the barrel of a gun in his car before he shot him in self-defense.
The testimony, by David Michael Easter, 27, stood in contrast to audio played earlier in the trial from the 911 call Easter made to dispatchers after the shooting at 9:15 p.m. Aug. 23.
In that call, Easter reportedly claimed he had shot Spencer Daniel Brown, 23, in self-defense after Brown approached him with what appeared to be a bat.
Email newsletter signup
Brown was found dead in his locked 2001 Audi station wagon in the east side of a parking lot near Big Island pavilion. He suffered two gunshot wounds to the head.
Authorities found a golf club in the floor of his passenger seat near Brown’s right hand, but a gun was never found.
Freeborn County Attorney David Walker questioned whether Easter would have been able to see through the windows of Brown’s 2001 Audi station wagon, which were earlier in the trial identified as having illegal window tint — allowing only 16 percent of light to be transmitted.
Easter testified to locking eyes with Brown as he stood next to the car looking through the window during questioning with public defender Adrianne McMahon.
“I saw the barrel of that gun and the motion of him using that gun,” Easter said, noting he thought Brown was going to use it against him.
At that point, Easter said he shot his pistol two times before running back to his truck and yelling at his wife to call 911. He said he wanted help for Brown and help for his family.
Easter said he had been at Myre-Big Island State Park with his wife and baby since about 6 p.m. the night of Aug. 23. He and his wife had gone to the state park to smoke salmon and enjoy the state park as a family. They ended up at Big Island pavilion in case of rain later that evening.
After they had finished smoking the salmon, he and his family were the only ones at the park when he noticed another vehicle pull up through the entrance to the parking lot. At that point, he said he was standing outside of the pavilion, and saw the lights shut off on the car as it continued into the parking lot.
Seeing this, he said, caught his attention. Though it was dark at the time — with no lights in the parking lot and only overhead lighting in the pavilion — he said he was able to make out the outline of the vehicle. He saw the car enter the parking lot and ultimately stop in front of his pickup, where it stayed for 30 seconds to a minute.
At that time, he said, he went from “curious to uneasy.” After that short period, the car made a hard left and parked across from the truck.
As he continued to watch, he said he saw a person step out of the driver’s side of the vehicle. He couldn’t tell if the person was a man or a woman and couldn’t see anything in the person’s hand. The person reportedly walked toward the trunk of the vehicle and then shouted something that he could not hear.
Easter said it startled him.
After shouting, the person walked up the trailhead onto the grass, a little closer to the pavilion. Easter said the person shouted something again. He caught the last part of what was said: “Hey [expletive].”
Easter said the uneasy feeling he had turned into more of a scared feeling and he looked around to see if there was someone else with the person.
The person then reportedly walked the other direction toward the woods where a restroom building is located and disappeared on the back side of the building.
At that point, Easter said he told his wife, who was breastfeeding their baby, that they needed to go.
“I was at that point scared,” he said. “I didn’t want to be around this person.”
As they left to walk toward their truck, he said he saw the man reappear from behind the building at a quick pace. Easter said he went from “a scared feeling to kind of a freaked-out feeling.”
He motioned his wife to walk off the path toward their truck with their baby and tried to put the person’s focus on only him.
Easter said the person stopped at the trailhead and shouted the same phrase as before.
“That scared the [expletive] out of me,” Easter said.
Easter said he didn’t want to turn his back to the person for safety reasons, and as they got closer, the person said he had something for him.
The person, later identified as Brown, ultimately got in his car, got into the driver’s seat, grasped the steering wheel and looked at him and said, “I have something for you, [expletive].”
Brown then closed the door, and Easter said he reportedly saw him reach for the gun.
When asked how he felt after shooting Brown, Easter said he felt distressed. He said he remembers bits and pieces of the 911 call he placed and that he talked about a bat in that call to get help as soon as he could for Brown and his own family.
Easter said he has been carrying a gun since 2011, after obtaining his conceal and carry permit in Nebraska. He has lived in Minnesota since 2012 and said he has not looked into whether that Nebraska permit would be valid in the state.
He said he took his pistol everywhere, everyday, except for places it was not allowed, such as churches, and said he didn’t consider some places to be safer than others.
He didn’t give a second thought to having it at the state park that day. Guns were not allowed at the park.
Witnesses have testified the two men did not know each other prior to the shooting.
More questioning of Easter was expected after a lunch break before closing arguments. Look to the Herald for updates.