ST. GEORGE — Bronson Joseph Flynn, who stands accused of shooting a man to death in St. George, took the stand Thursday to testify on his own behalf as both sides launched arguments in a tension-filled courtroom.
The defendant took the stand at the start of the fourth day of trial at 5th District Court where Flynn, 26, is on trial for first-degree murder involving a shooting that killed 34-year-old Spencer Maluafiti Tafua at the One and Only bar shortly after 1 a.m. on Dec. 29, 2018. Police responded to the bar on reports of gunfire and an individual brandishing a gun.
During his testimony, Flynn went over the initial altercation in the smoking area that started when he offered one of the bar patrons a dollar in exchange for a cigarette. At that point, Tafua allegedly said, “I wonder how many times you’ve pulled that same dollar out of your pocket.”
After the comment, a physical altercation took place when Tafua swung at him, Flynn said, which is when the defendant left that bar. While walking through the parking lot, Tafua and several other guys began following him and he felt “overwhelmed,” he said.
As Flynn made his way to his car, he said he, “started seeing people moving down the sidewalk. I looked back and they were kind of coalescing,” so he said he got into his vehicle felt like he needed to arm himself.
He retrieved the rifle from the back seat, chambered a round and went around the car where there was an empty parking space. He said his friend approached him and told him to “put that away,” referring to the gun, and the friend walked off.
“There were some people running,” while the group was walking towards him, at which point he backed up and told them to “back up or I’ll shoot,” Flynn said. Then he just “stood there,” as the group began closing in.
He said he pulled back when one of the men came up behind him and lunged for the gun, then he fired the shot that struck Tafua in the chest.
“I was boxed in and panicked,” Flynn said.
“I think we’ve spent about half an hour on this diagram. Is that how long it took for this incident,” defense attorney, Trevor Terry asked.
“No,” Flynn said.
Terry said earlier that the entire incident took about three minutes.
During cross-examination, Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger confirmed with the defendant that Tafua was unarmed, saying “he had no weapon or anything in his hands that could have caused you bodily harm, right?”
“Yes,” Flynn said.
One of the main contentions in the case is whether Flynn was being followed by a group of people just prior to the shooting. Each witness gave a different account as to the number of people following him, or if anyone was following him at all.
Jaeger continued by saying the defendant’s testimony was confusing, saying Flynn provided varying accounts as to the number of people following him after the altercation in the smoking area.
The prosecutor then asked Flynn for the names of three of the four individuals that were following him, since one of the men was a security guard for the bar.
“In the chaotic nature of that moment, I wasn’t exactly identifying who’s following me. It was more a group,” Flynn said.
Jaeger then asked that since one of those people following him was a security guard, why would the defendant think a security guard would hurt him.
“It was a possibility,” Flynn said.
“In fact, his livelihood depends on protecting you,” Jaeger said.
When Jeager asked why Flynn didn’t just drive away, Flynn said he didn’t want to drive because he’d been drinking.
Jaeger then asked why Flynn didn’t make another choice that night, suggesting he could have gone to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee to cool off, for example.
The prosecutor also said that 12 hours after the shooting, the defendant called the three most important people in his life, including his mother, another family member and a girlfriend.
The calls were made from jail and were recorded, a copy of which was provided to both the state and the defense.
Not during a single call did Flynn talk about anyone following him, Jaeger said, nor did he talk about the altercation that started it all. When asked why he didn’t drive off, “you didn’t say anything,” Jaeger said. During at least one of the phone calls Flynn said, he “got away,” when referring to the alteration in the smoking area.
During redirect, Terry went over the excerpts of the phone calls, telling the jury the defendant explained that he got away, which is correct, but he went on to say he returned to the bar to get his friend, and then went to his car where “a bunch of them” followed him.
In another call, Flynn said he was walking toward his car, and they followed him and “were closing in on him.”
The attorney also said Flynn had nothing to assure him that security would help him that night, when, in fact, it was the opposite. Additionally, Flynn was surrounded by then.
Terry also said that Jaeger’s comments referring to Flynn going to McDonald’s to have a cup of coffee and cool down immediately after the initial altercation was a hypothetical scenario that made no sense.
“So, you’re supposed to run over to McDonald’s and sit down for a cup of coffee. What if those guys followed you into McDonald’s? What would happen then?” Terry asked.
Jaeger then closed by asking, “was security able to protect Spencer (Tafua) that night?”
“No,” Flynn said.
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