A man allegedly shot and killed his father after being enraged by a gay guest attending a family gathering.
At a preliminary hearing during the week of 18 October, prosecutors claimed the motivation for the crime was homophobia.
“He made it known to his stepfather that he did not approve of that person coming into their house … that their house was a house of God,” Assistant Prosecutor Dana Anton told the judge.
According to news outlet nj.com, it is alleged that 23-year-old Christian A. Smith, of Philadelphia, killed Dennis McKenzie at the age of 43 on 9 October in Woolwich Township.
Anton claimed that an argument quickly escalated between the two, resulting in Smith using a homophobic slur.
McKenzie then reportedly took a swing at Smith before the latter used a gun from his waistband to shoot him three times.
The 43-year-old died at the scene in front of his wife and Smith’s younger sibling, after being shot in the head and torso.
Smith’s attorney argues that a murder charge is not the right course of action as it was an accident.
“Exactly how this occurred and the specific manner of death needs to be fleshed out a little bit more with the forensics,” said Katherine Constantine Blinn, Smith’s public defender.
Blinn emphasised that the shooting was spontaneous, explaining that her client stayed at the scene of the crime after dismantling the gun and leaving it on the dining room table.
“What that suggests to me, judge, is that this was accidental and that in order to prevent any further issues Mr. Smith disassembled the gun until police arrived,” she stated.
This was disputed by the prosecution, who said that Smith’s mother attempted to break up the argument.
“He took the gun out from behind him, reached over her and fired three times,” Anton said. “You can’t accidentally shoot somebody three times.”
Smith declined to speak to police initially and only hours after he was in custody claimed the shooting was accidental, Anton said.
Superior Court Judge Mary Beth Kramer found probable cause for the murder charge and for a second-degree charge of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Given that authorities determined the gun was legally purchased and allowed to be kept in the home, she did not find probable cause for an additional charge of unlawful possession of a weapon.
Arguing for Smith’s pre-trial detention, Anton added: “While he is permitted to have a gun … this was in the back of his waistband … That doesn’t really make a lot of sense for a family gathering to be walking around with your gun just hanging loose in your waistband.”
The judge sided with the prosecution, ordering that Smith be jailed pending trial.
“The weight of the evidence in the eyes of the court in this matter are very strong,” Kramer said. “Even with the argument that this was somehow an accidental discharge, he still had to take a loaded handgun out of his waistband at a family gathering … I find that he represents a danger to the community.”
Smith will return to court on 2 December for a pre-indictment hearing.