A St. Paul man's military service with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan could save or doom him against charges that he fatally shot a woman and badly injured a man in his Lowertown apartment last year.
Attorneys for Scott A. Klund Jr., 30, have tried to show that he acted instinctively when he shot the two in self-defense using skills drilled into him in the military. But Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Ring tried to dismantle that logic in cross-examination Wednesday of Klund's fellow marine, Henry Goff, by getting Goff to admit that they were trained to use force against specific threats in a context far different from downtown St. Paul.
Klund is on trial in Ramsey County District Court on one count of second-degree murder with intent for killing Charlotte A. Rawls, 52, and attempted second-degree murder with intent for shooting Ray Gruer and slicing his throat on May 7, 2016.
Klund took the witness stand Thursday to testify on his own behalf, telling the court that after joining the Marines in May 2007, he underwent training that focused on the repetition of behaviors. Once deployed in Afghanistan in 2008 as an infantry rifleman, Klund testified, he spent time clearing towns and houses, eyeing everyone as a possible member of the Taliban capable of inflicting fatal harm.
"It could've been a woman, it could've been a kid," Klund said. "Could've been an old man — didn't matter."
Klund's attorneys, Elizabeth Switzer and Aaron Haddorff, have tried to show that although Klund's actions last year were shaped by his military training, he should be held to the same standard as a civilian — not an active marine.
Switzer tried Thursday to undo some of the harm Ring caused in his cross-examination of Goff, a defense witness who knew Klund in Afghanistan. Under questioning by Haddorff Wednesday, Goff aided the defense's depiction of military training.
"You don't really even process emotion," Goff said of his service as a machine-gunner. "The training takes over, and you don't feel scared. You just do your job."
But the case seemed to fall apart when Ring began cross-examining Goff. Ring asked if Marines are taught nonfatal martial arts self-defense. Goff said yes. Ring asked if Marines are expected to observe strict physical discipline in their actions. Goff said yes.
Did the Marines' rules of engagement apply to specific threats in a "very limited context?" asked Ring.
"Correct," Goff said.
Thursday, Switzer asked Klund if martial arts were a Marine's first line of defense.
"No," Klund said.
"What is your first line of defense?" Switzer asked.
"The rifle," Klund said.
Switzer asked if martial arts was only employed in the absence of a rifle.
"Yes," Klund said.
The questioning appeared geared at deflating any doubts jurors might have about why Klund fired his AR-15 rifle when apparently faced with Gruer holding a knife.
Klund had run into Gruer and Rawls, who were homeless, at a gas station after bar close on May 7. The trio returned to Klund's building in the 200 block of 5th Street E. near Mears Park. A resident of the building called 911 about shots fired about 3:38 a.m.
Haddorff said in his opening statement last week that Gruer and Rawls forced their way into Klund's apartment, and he didn't resist because he was in a good mood. Klund acted in self-defense when the two, who Haddorff said were high on methamphetamine, refused to leave and when Gruer grabbed a knife.
"[Klund] began to clear his own apartment as if he was in a house in Afghanistan," Haddorff said last week.
Klund testified that he felt threatened by Gruer, who also had Klund's wallet in the other hand and acted aggressively. Klund said he fired one warning shot and then fired into the bathroom door after Gruer locked himself inside.
That's when Rawls came downstairs from his loft bedroom, Klund said. He said he fired at her, afraid that she was running into his front room where he kept a pistol. Klund denied cutting Gruer's throat.
Kurt Moline, a forensics expert with St. Paul police, testified Wednesday that there were five bullet holes in the living room windows where Rawls was shot, and that there were 24 bullet holes in the bathroom door.
Ring tried to raise doubts about Klund's testimony, noting that he changed details between his interview with police and the trial. Klund said he had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the police interview, and remembered key details days later.
"All of this military stuff happened 10 years before this," said Rawls' daughter, Athena Lund. "When marines … are on U.S. soil, they know better."
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Friday.
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