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Prosecution asserts defendant was aggressor in dealership shooting
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Amanda Tyndall, an employee of the Gainesville Comfort Suites, recalled a conversation on the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting with Mark Antonio Taylor II.

She spoke only briefly to the cold, wandering man with a military ID she had let sleep on the hotel’s lobby couch with a promise to go before guests arrived.

“I said how sad it was, and that it was just crazy to shoot someone for no apparent reason,” she said.

“‘It is sad,’” was the only response she recalled from Taylor.

Just hours later on Dec. 28, 2013, the 23-year-old Taylor would fire two shots from his Hi-Point .45-caliber pistol at Carriage Automotive employee Charles Weaver, killing him. The prosecution said Taylor shot Weaver with malice; his defense says the shots were fired in self-defense.

Taylor faces charges of malice murder, three counts of felony murder, armed robbery, theft by taking and possession of a weapon in the commission of a felony for his role in the early morning incident at Carriage Nissan in Gainesville.

He was arrested in Atlanta after taking off in a 2011 red Nissan Frontier. He entered the running truck after spotting it on a walk down Browns Bridge Road after leaving the hotel.

Atlanta attorney Morris Fair Jr. told the jury Taylor tried to relinquish the car to Weaver to remedy the situation, and that an unarmed Weaver went for Taylor’s gun as he walked inside the parts warehouse where his body was found by co-workers more than an hour later.

Fair said Taylor will take the stand in his defense to explain, and one account in his words has already been admitted by the state; prosecutors played two video-recorded interviews for jurors Tuesday in Hall County Superior Court.

Taylor spoke calmly and politely with Gainesville police in the interviews, eliciting only brief moments of frustration from investigators as they sought a motive and implied self-defense didn’t add up with the evidence.

The actions of Taylor, a U.S. Army Reserve member who had a receipt for the gun bought at a Gainesville pawnshop and an information printout from on concealed carry laws, seemed baffling in light of his superior position. He carried a gun; Weaver pulled a knife, which Taylor had ordered him to drop. Taylor could have escaped in the truck; he chose not to run.

“I really wasn’t going to shoot him, and at that point, I wasn’t even going to take the car,” he told investigator Brad Raper. “I don’t know, I was just in a bad position.”

In a second interview conducted in Gainesville several hours after he was picked up at his sister’s Atlanta apartment, investigators seemed intent on zeroing in on anger he harbored from a recent argument with his girlfriend, and perhaps manifested at the scene with provocation from Weaver, who Taylor said threw him slurs and insults upon finding him in the truck. The reason for the second shot, he offered without prompting, was “panic” and “reflex.”

As the investigators sought to gain Taylor’s trust, expressing sympathy for his day’s frustrations, their questions evoked a narrative of Taylor’s life that drew emotion from Taylor, his family and several jurors.

“I’ve been through a lot, seeing a lot of stuff. A lot (of)people getting hurt,” he said, wiping tears in court as he listened to himself quietly disclose details about his life, including losing his father as a toddler, growing up in the housing projects in Alpharetta and regretting applying for the military reserves over active duty.

“I’ve just always wanted to be the person who helped people. I just wanted to be in the military. ... I’m just losing people around me,” he said. “I don’t want to be away from my son.”

But his story was likely small comfort for the family of Weaver, who endured several emotional moments in court as they relived the violent end to his life in pictures and testimony. And Taylor, who said several times he ran because he wanted to see his family before being taken into custody, was called to consider the implication of his actions when Raper noted Weaver was a son, a husband and a father.

“It’s not a one-sided thing,” he said. “All sides are affected.”

Addressing the self-defense theory, Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance asked Raper if there was a right to self-defense in the commission of a felony, to which he said there was not.

“Based on your training, and work as a law enforcement officer who makes charging decisions, who would have had a legal right to protect himself: Mark Taylor or Charles Weaver?”

“Charles Weaver,” Raper said.

The state also said Taylor followed Weaver, and admitted evidence from forensic experts indicates he was shot from behind. The first bullet caused essentially a flesh wound, and the second, which entered his chest after passing through his arm near his shoulder, would have been fatal in moments, a medical examiner testified.

A panel of seven men and seven women (12 jurors and two alternates) will decide whether the shooting amounted to murder, and prosecutors told Judge Bonnie Oliver the state will likely conclude its presentation of evidence when the trial resumes today.