Jeffrey McCoy, seen here in a family photo, was shot to death by his friend Brian Fitch who thought he was sleeping with his girlfriend. (photo courtesy of
Jeffrey McCoy, seen here in a family photo, was shot to death by his friend Brian Fitch who thought he was sleeping with his girlfriend. (photo courtesy of Elizabeth McCoy)

MARTINEZ -- For the second time in the past two decades, Brian Fitch testified Thursday in a Contra Costa court that he killed a former high school classmate in self-defense while riding in a truck together.

The 43-year-old Fairfield resident was acquitted of the first shooting, and on Thursday he spent three emotional hours on the stand describing strikingly similar events, again saying he killed his best friend, Jeff McCoy, to save his own life.

"I looked over, and he had a gun pointed at me, and my heart sunk," a crying Fitch told jurors Thursday of his Sept. 6, 2011, encounter with his childhood friend.

Prosecutors say Fitch shot McCoy, a 42-year-old San Pablo resident, 10 times -- mostly in the back -- in a jealous rage, believing McCoy was sleeping with his wife. McCoy managed to scurry out the passenger window of the speeding truck and was found dying in the street near Pinole's Fernandez Park, where the pair played Pony League baseball together as boys.

Outside court, McCoy's relatives said they remembered a 23-year-old Fitch telling a similar story from the stand in 1993 after he was charged with shooting Anthony Earl Davis, another Pinole Valley High School classmate, in the face while they both rode in a truck.

"He got on the stand, told lies, and the jury bought it," said Barbara McCoy, the victim's mother, who came from East County to attend the trial.

The morning began with Fitch -- wearing a striped blue dress shirt, tie, sweater vest and glasses -- saying how he and McCoy were "inseparable" as kids.

However, by September 2011, Fitch said the pair had a falling, out and he believed his former best friend was sleeping with his wife. After an argument with his wife, Fitch said he drove to Pinole, bringing a .45 semi-automatic pistol and a .357 revolver to McCoy's house.

"I just wanted someone to sit down and talk to me," he said, sobbing.

After Fitch snorted a line of cocaine, he said McCoy asked him to score some heroin from Richmond. Fitch said he reluctantly took him, but returned to Pinole when traffic was bad. As the pair drove to the crest of a hill in a residential neighborhood, Fitch said he confronted McCoy about his wife, and McCoy responded: "What are you gonna do about it?" He said McCoy then pointed one of his handguns at him, before Fitch pulled his other gun from his waistband as he drove and shot McCoy.

"I kept squeezing the trigger until it emptied," he said. "I realized I shot one of my best friends, but he still had the gun."

Fitch said he hit the brakes, and the gun fell to the floor. He said he then picked it up, as McCoy started slapping him, saying, "I should have killed you."

Fitch said he then unloaded all the bullets from the other gun.

Asked if it was self-defense, Fitch said, "I was looking down the barrel of a gun."

McCoy jumped out the passenger window of the speeding truck and Fitch fled.

"I panicked, and I know I should have stopped and called 9-1-1 and gone back and gave him CPR," Fitch said, sobbing. "I was scared; I had been in trouble before, and I didn't think anyone would believe me."

Fitch testified he cleaned the bloodstained truck at a friend's house because "I just wanted it to go away."

In her cross-examination, prosecutor Mary Knox read dozens of statements made by Fitch to police and to his mother and others showing an angry jealous streak regarding his wife and men he believed she slept with. To each statement, Fitch told the prosecutor he could not recall making it.

Knox questioned Fitch about his earlier acquittal, when he told a jury that he thought his high school classmate Davis was reaching for a gun as Davis drove the pair. Davis was actually holding a small poodle, Knox said.

For McCoy's mother, watching Fitch's testimony was heart-wrenching.

"I want my son's reputation restored because he was well-liked and a people-person in the city of Pinole," she said. "He had many, many friends, and Brian Fitch was always jealous of Jeff."

She said her son, who ran his own tree business and was an avid fisherman, did not use heroin and Fitch was using it as an "excuse" on how he got McCoy into his truck.

Elizabeth McCoy, the victim's sister and Fitch's ex-wife of a year, said the testimony made her sick.

"I have no doubt in my mind that Brian Fitch is a stone-cold killer and ... I believe it was jealousy, I really do," she said. "I don't believe any of his claims that my brother was having an affair."

Fitch's testimony ended Thursday afternoon. The defense will call its next witness Tuesday.