A 22-year-old Sacramento man being tried on charges including attempted murder, assault with a semiautomatic firearm and committing a hate crime after he fired on two men in Lakehead in 2021 told the jury he considered himself to be a victim in the incident.
Silas Matthew Hesselberg addressed the jury on Wednesday morning during his trial in Shasta County Superior Court in Redding.
Hesselberg said he had lost two years of his life "for charges that are unfounded and false."
According to Shasta County Sheriff's Office detectives, Hesselberg "went out of his way" to start a confrontation. Hesselberg ended up shooting the two men, including 34-year-old William Travis Barber of Shasta Lake, who was hospitalized with a serious brain injury.
His friend - a 41-year-old who has not been named by officials - was treated for his injuries and released, according to authorities.
More:Shasta Lake man recovers after being shot defending friend from hate crime
What happened in April 2021
Barber and his friend, who is Black, had gone to the Salt Creek Inlet on the morning of April 18, 2021, to fish and socialize with their families near the old Highway 99 bridge, according to authorities.
During his court testimony on Wednesday, Hesselberg said he had been camping alongside the Sacramento River in Lakehead and was going to fetch water near the Salt Creek boat ramp that morning.
According to Hesselberg's testimony, as he walked toward the creek, he came upon a couple standing near a vehicle.
The man, who was Black, "said 'what's up?' in an aggressive fashion," said Hesselberg. In response, Hesselberg said he replied by calling the man "n------."
Later in his testimony, Hesselberg added, "It seemed like he was trying to instigate something."
Hesselberg told the jury that he wasn't racist. "I just said it in response to what he said. I didn't expect anything to come any farther than that verbal spat," he said.
After that, Hesselberg said, the 41-year-old man picked up a large rock and threw it at him.
Hesselberg said he responded by pulling out his gun from the pocket of his cargo pants and firing "a warning shot" at the man. Hesselberg said as the man was going for another rock, he fired a second shot at the man, who ran off.
After taking a few steps after him, Hesselberg said he heard a sound and turned around to find Barber, who was holding a large rock. Barber threw the rock at him and missed, Hesselberg said.
Hesselberg said he then shot at Barber three times. "The last shot … hit him in the head, but it was not close up," said Hesselberg, who said he then dropped his gun to the ground and went back to his campsite, saying nothing to anyone.
Hesselberg said a bystander went with him back to his campsite and called 911.
According to authorities, two other people in the area who were not named in the report found Hesselberg after the shootings and held him at gunpoint while deputies and emergency personnel made their way to the scene.
After Hesselberg was identified and detained, detectives and crime scene technicians found the gun used in the shooting, which did not have a serial number and was not registered. Officials searched Hesselberg's campsite and found a disassembled "AR-style rifle" without a serial number and two silencers for a pistol, authorities said.
The weapons were presented in court on Wednesday. At the time of the shooting in Lakehead, Hesselberg had been served by the Sacramento County Superior Court with a civil harassment restraining order which said he was not to possess guns or ammunition, according to Senior Deputy Shasta County District Attorney Emily Mees.
Jurors were also shown a flag authorities found at Hesselberg's campsite with a design that included a gold swastika in the center. He said he added the swastika to the flag many years ago.
Asked whether swastikas represent hate, Hesselberg said, "I deny the swastika is a symbol for that."
After Hesselberg's testimony on Wednesday, his defense attorney, Matthew Izzi, rested his case.
Members of the jury began receiving instructions from Judge Monique McKee midday Wednesday and were to later enter jury deliberations.
Michele Chandler covers criminal justice issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She welcomes story tips at 530-338-7753, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @MChandler_RS. Please support our entire newsroom's commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Shasta County jury deliberates Lakehead hate crime shooting case