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Beach-Killing Suspect Threatened Victim, Witness Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A friend of an 18-year-old man who was killed on Dana Strand in September testified in Juvenile Court here Wednesday that Christian Aaron Steffens was carrying a gun on the beach and verbally threatened the victim before shooting him.

The testimony was given by Jeff Dash, 20, of Dana Point, who said he was with Robert Elliott at the time he was shot to death. Steffens, who was then 16, is accused of the fatal shooting and is being held in custody as a juvenile.

The hearing in Juvenile Court is to determine if Steffens should be tried as an adult or as a juvenile.

Dash was called to testify by Marri Derby, the deputy public defender representing Steffens. Derby has said she will prove that Steffens was acting in self-defense on Sept. 8 because he had been terrified by threats from Elliott and his friends.

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Dash, however, described Steffens as being the one who was threatening on the day of the beach shooting. Dash testified that Steffens was wearing a cowboy hat and brandishing a gun as Dash and Elliott walked onto the beach that afternoon.

“All of a sudden he (Steffens) saw Rob,” Dash said. " . . . Steffens grabbed the gun and said, ‘I’m going to (expletive) kill you.’ ”

Dash, in response to questions, said he was a “very good friend” of Elliott. Dash also said that he considers Steffens to be “a space case--a bragging kind of guy.”

Derby, in trying to build a self-defense case for Steffens, has contended that Elliott was prone to violence, hung around with a “skinhead” group, and had vowed vengeance on Steffens.

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But Dash, under her questioning, gave a different picture of Elliott.

Dash said Elliot “leaned toward nonviolence.” He also testified that Elliott did not belong to a skinhead group and that Elliott was a devout Christian. “We were changing our lives to Jesus Christ,” Dash said.

But in later testimony, Dash said that Elliott had “aired his dislike of Chris (Steffens).” Dash said Elliott believed Steffens had broken out a window in Elliott’s truck.

The hearing resumes today with more testimony scheduled from Dash. Juvenile Judge Robert B. Hutson, at the conclusion of the hearing, will decide whether to bind Steffens over for trial as an adult or as a juvenile. Steffens would be eligible for a lesser sentence if convicted in Juvenile Court.

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