ASHEVILLE - The defendant in a Pisgah View murder case took the stand Aug. 15, starting the second week of the trial, and told the court that when she shot 25-year-old Dexter Grant the night of June 21, 2021, she didn't have a choice.
Amya Collington, who is being tried for first-degree murder, told the court that she went to Pisgah View Apartments to speak with Grant after a heated exchange between two families, following a fight between two children at a Deaverview playground.
After shooting Grant, she got in her Jeep with her girlfriend and told her - and herself - "I'm sorry. I had to shoot. I had to. It was either me or him," she testified.
The previous exchange at the Collington family's Deaverview home seemingly ended on a fine enough note, with Grant suggesting squashing the beef and adding that, if anyone wanted to discuss further, they knew where to find him, according to testimony.
Collington, who was not at the Deaverview home during the argument but received a call about it, set out to do just that, she said.
When she found Grant's girlfriend, Sierra Nesbitt, she asked to see "Cash," the only name she knew Grant by, she said. He came out. The two spoke amicably for some time, and then the conversation got heated, Collington said.
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"What do you want to do?" she remembered Grant saying.
"Whatever you want to do," she replied.
"I guess you want to die, then," he said, according to her account.
He then pulled up on his coat, revealing an AR-15, she said. The AR-15 has been the topic of much discussion at the trial.
"I see it more and more coming out," she said. "I kind of got a little bit scared because it was a big gun."
Then, according to medical records presented at trial, she shot him with a 9mm handgun twice, though video of the incident appears to show more shots that did not land. She went to an aunt's house in Hendersonville until the news broke that Grant had died and that she was wanted, she said.
She claimed to have tossed the handgun out her Jeep's window on the way, noting that was what she saw in media.
Asheville police previously reported that she turned herself in to the county jail June 22, a day after the shooting.
One question that was still on Assistant District Attorney Amy Broughton's mind after Collington's account: If it was self-defense, why did Collington shoot Grant in the back, as a pathologist who testified said Aug. 12?
Dr. Jerri McLemore of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and the Wake Forest University School of Medicine said entry wounds were along Grant's back side. One bullet entered through his lower back and one through his mid-back.
"You don't seem to understand how Dexter Grant got shot in the back," Broughton said during cross-examination.
"It was me who shot him," Collington said. "I'm not sure how it was in the back."
"I believed he was still alive when I left because he was still holding the gun," she said.
Chief Public Defender Sam Snead, Collington's defense attorney, demonstrated what it might look like if he were grabbing an AR-15 from his own body, slowly turning for the jury. Collington said that could have been the reason the bullets entered Grant's back.
Other testimony given Aug. 15 supported that Grant had the AR-15, the defense's crux in a self-defense argument.
"He was carrying it," said firearms expert Donald Guge, who the district attorney's office called on to testify. Guge had reviewed videos of the shooting captured on Pisgah View surveillance cameras.
Guge was originally scheduled to discuss firearms and use of force, but the DA's office walked him back from the second role over the weekend, presiding Superior Court Judge Daniel Kuehnert said Aug. 15.
Guge also identified pieces of an AR-15 found at the scene for the court.
Still, the jury will have to weigh how much that information matters, with no evidence presented so far that Grant fired first, or at all.
"The evidence is that he had an AR-15," Broughton said before Collington testified, speaking to the weight of the first-degree murder charge. "There's no evidence that he brandished an AR-15."
The trial is scheduled to continue Aug. 16.
Ryan Oehrli is the breaking news and social justice reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Defendant in Asheville murder case takes stand: 'Me or him'