Murder defendant Arnel Salagubang denied in court Monday that he shot and killed a gang member in November in Oxnard or that he belongs to a rival Filipino gang called the Satanas.
Salagubang, 20, testified that he drove away from Channel Islands High School alone before Manuel (Deadeye) Rodriguez was shot to death Nov. 22.
Salagubang admitted that he joined the Satanas, or Devils, in January, 1988, but said he "stopped hanging around with them" a full year before Rodriguez's death.
His elbows on the witness stand, Salagubang testified in a clear, unhesitating voice, addressing lawyers as "sir." He was the first of several defense witnesses Monday who contradicted state witnesses' testimony that he shot Rodriguez to death.
Salagubang is charged with first-degree murder, inflicting great bodily harm and using a weapon in the death of Rodriguez, who died of a .22-caliber gunshot wound to the head.
Witnesses have testified that Salagubang killed Rodriguez because he was voicing racial slurs at members of the Satanas and yelling the name of his gang, Lemonwood Chiques, to provoke them.
Salagubang said he dropped off Satanas member Jesse Cortinas at the school, then drove away because his Datsun 280ZX wouldn't restart if he turned off the engine.
Witness Jamie Johnson, 17, supported his version. She testified that she saw Salagubang drive away before she heard the shot.
"Deadeye stopped and said, 'What's up? Lemonwood Chiques all the way,' " Johnson said. She said she saw Cortinas and another Satanas member standing by Rodriguez's car before the shooting.
"I heard Arnel's car starting to drive away, and I heard a pop, and I saw Jesse had something by the side of his leg, but I couldn't see what it was," Johnson said. She testified that a few moments later Cortinas was holding a gun as she rode away with them in a pickup truck with several other friends.
Johnson testified that she had lied to police officers after the shooting. She said she implicated Salagubang because Oxnard detectives threatened to charge her as an accessory to the crime.
"That's all they wanted to hear, that Arnel did it," she told the jury.
Cortinas testified against Salagubang last week in exchange for the district attorney's offer to let him plead guilty to a murder charge in Juvenile Court, which would put him under authorities' control only until he reaches age 25.
Detective Greg Asbell admitted during rebuttal testimony Monday that he had lied to Salagubang, telling him during interrogation that witnesses had identified his license plate at the scene and picked him out of a photo lineup.
Jurors heard a tape recording on which Asbell told Salagubang, "You'd better cooperate. . . . Why would somebody positively ID you?"
And Salagubang admitted under cross-examination that he lied when he told investigators he had driven by the school without stopping because he saw members of the Colonia Chiques gang who had threatened him earlier.