“There is no defense,” murder suspect David Alan Kobak told a Eureka police detective after he was arrested for shooting his longtime friend eight times with a semiautomatic rifle.
But now the attorney for the 77-year-old Kobak says Kobak shot his buddy Frederick Loftus to protect himself during a drunken argument in Kobak’s Eureka apartment.
“It was an act of self-defense in the midst of a sudden quarrel that was started by the deceased,” Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo told jurors Tuesday, the first day of Kobak’s murder trial.
Russo said Kobak, who will testify during the trial, does not remember the August 2017 shooting. He just recalls “threats of violence” from Loftus, whom Kobak says punched him twice in the face and insulted him in such a vile way that Kobak refuses to repeat the words.
Deputy District Attorney Whitney Timm offered a different interpretation: Kobak made the decision to walk from his kitchen, where he was cooking dinner, to the bedroom. He grabbed his fully loaded 9mm rifle. When he came out carrying the gun, Loftus stood up and Kobak said “Fuck you” and began firing.
“He put his rifle back and called 911 … He acted with the intent to kill and he acted with premeditation and deliberation.”
In other words, either a justified killing or first-degree murder.
Kobak and the 59-year-old Loftus, both commercial fishermen, had been friends for 30 years. They hadn’t seen one another for six years when Loftus returned from a fishing trip in Alaska and Kobak offered him a place to stay. Kobak told Eureka police Detective Ron Harpham that Loftus had been at his place for about six weeks when the shooting occurred.
Both men had been drinking for hours that day, with Kobak’s blood alcohol level at .16 about an hour after Loftus was killed. Russo, during his opening statement, said an expert will testify Kobak’s blood alcohol could have been as high as .27 when he opened fire. Loftus’s blood was not tested.
Russo said Loftus had a reputation “for becoming quarrelsome and confrontational” when he was drinking, while Kobak had no violent tendencies whatsoever.
Kobak’s post-arrest interview with Harpham consisted of a strange mixture of apologies, self-condemnation and hearty laughter. He would say “Sorry, sorry sorry” or “Why, why why?” and then laugh as though he and the detective were having a friendly chat.
Repeatedly Kobak said “I fucked up. I shot my buddy. This is the worst thing that’s ever happened.” “There’s no defense.” “I have no rights.”
Harpham testified that when asked if he was afraid of Loftus or had been threatened, Kobak said no. Try as he might, Harpham couldn’t persuade Kobak to tell him what Loftus said that made him so angry.
At 6:01 p.m., immediately after the shooting, Kobak called 911 and said “I shot my buddy.” The EPD dispatcher, Jenelle Crnich, asked about the weapon and Kobak told her it was a rifle.
Crinch, testifying Tuesday under questioning by Timm, said she asked Kobak where he had shot his friend.
“All over I guess,” Kobak told her. “He’s lying dead on the floor.”
EPD Sgt. Terence Liles, one of the first officers on the scene, entered Kobak’s apartment and saw the body.
“I saw a male face-down on the floor,” Liles testified. “There was quite a bit of blood and some obvious bullet holes.”
It was determined the gun had been fired a total of 10 times, with Loftus hit by eight bullets. Wounds were found in his chest, back, neck and shoulder. He was shot at close range.
Speaking with Harpham, Kobak said he and Loftus had been arguing when Loftus walked into the kitchen and “popped me a couple of times.”
“Then he got fuckin’ mouthy and started talking shit to me.”
At that point Kobak went into the bedroom and picked up the rifle and walked toward Loftus.
“I think he hit me again, I don’t know. I made a big fuckin’ mess. It’s the worst thing I ever did in my life … I walked up and he stood up and started giving me some shit and I shot him. I liked that guy.”
Testimony was expected to continue this morning before Judge Gregory Elvine-Kreis.
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