OAKLAND -- Donald Britton admitted from the witness stand Tuesday that he shot his sister's neighbor to death with a handgun.
Britton, 38, also admitted that he tried to hide the crime for almost two years by ordering family members to write false alibi statements and telling his sister to keep hidden until after his trial was concluded.
Britton told a jury that he believed there would never be enough evidence to connect him to the crime until he learned, two months ago, that the Oakland Police Department found his sister.
"My little scheme was appearing to bear fruit," Britton said of his plan to deny involvement in the killing. "(But) the gig has been up ever since OPD collected my sister."
Now, Britton said, he has decided to take his chances with a judicial system he doesn't trust and tell the truth about what happened when he shot Leo Dunson, 50, in the head on June 2, 2011.
Britton said the shooting was conducted in self-defense as he and Dunson wrestled in the middle of the afternoon along busy High Street. It was a fight that was sparked when Britton went to talk to Dunson about Dunson stalking Britton's sister.
Britton said he ended up shooting and killing Dunson because Dunson was choking him and punching him.
"He was going nuts on me, period. He wasn't playing, he was throwing punches from every angle," Britton said. "I reached in my pocket and pulled out my pistol, I couldn't get this dude off of me, and he wouldn't listen to reason."
Britton, an ex-felon who was been found guilty in the past of assault with a firearm and domestic violence, said he struggled to point the gun at Dunson but eventually fired shots at the man. He said he couldn't remember how many shots or where he hit Dunson only that Dunson finally stopped choking him.
"He wasn't choking me no more, he fell to the ground," Britton said.
Britton said he refused to admit to the killing or tell the truth up until now because he did not think police or prosecutors would believe he shot Dunson in self-defense. Britton said he thought it was easier to deny involvement because the only witness who could identify him as the shooter was his sister.
"I didn't believe in the system, and I didn't think I would get a fair trial," Britton said. "I was desperate to go home, I wanted to give myself a fair chance."
Although Britton and his defense attorney, assistant public defender Kathleen Guneratne, said the shooting was self-defense, a prosecutor has argued otherwise.
Deputy District Attorney Stacie Pettigrew questioned Britton about why he waited so long to tell the "truth" and why he took steps soon after the killing to mask his identity. Britton drastically altered his appearance after the shooting by shaving dreadlocks he had for more than a decade.
Britton said everything he did was in hopes of avoiding prosecution.
"If things went according to my plan, yes, I would be home by now," Britton said.