Gonzalez takes stand in murder trial

By Tim Weideman

WESTMORELAND — Pablo Gonzalez was driving his black Honda Accord around St. Marys sometime between 4 or 5 a.m. Jan. 1, when the .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun he had with him fired a shot.

On Wednesday in Pottawatomie County District Court, Gonzalez told jurors that he remembers glancing at his friend, Levi Bishop, who was sitting in the passenger seat.

At first, Bishop looked fine. But Gonzalez took a second glance and noticed the 24-year-old from Rossville was bleeding and coughing.

“The last words I remember Levi saying were, ‘I’m dying, dude,’” Gonzalez said during his trial in Judge Jeff Elder’s courtroom.

Bishop had been shot in the neck.

At this point of his testimony, Gonzalez, now 22, appeared to be crying. He paused frequently while recalling the events.

Bishop’s family and friends in the courtroom comforted each other while wiping away tears.

“I remember reaching and grabbing his hand,” Gonzalez said of the moments after the gun went off. “He was holding mine really tight.”

Gonzalez, of St. Marys, is on trial for second-degree murder in Bishop’s death. The charge comes with two alternative counts, intentional or unintentional but reckless, which are different level felonies. He also faces an aggravated assault charge for allegedly pointing the gun at another man’s head earlier that morning.

While on the witness stand, Gonzalez said he and Bishop were friends. Gonzalez was dating Bishop’s sister at the time.

“He’d come to my house,” Gonzalez said in court. “I’d probably see him three times a week.”

Gonzalez said he had “no reason at all” to have wanted to harm his friend that night. He wasn’t mad at Bishop, nor were they arguing.

“I knew his whole family,” he said. “They trusted me. Now, I’m responsible for their son’s death.”

Gonzalez said he didn’t intend to harm Bishop.

However, after a night spent ringing in the New Year, Bishop was, at some point, shot and killed while he was riding in the passenger seat of Gonzalez’s car. Two other young men were passed out in the back seat.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez said he didn’t remember much about that night.

He did recall that he began drinking at about 8:30 or 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Gonzalez said he and Bishop eventually met up at a party sometime after midnight.

Gonzalez and a couple friends left that party without Bishop. The group may have gone shooting somewhere outside of St. Marys, Gonzalez told the jury, but he wasn’t positive where.

At some point that night, Bishop joined the group back in St. Marys.

“I remember being in town, just riding around, maybe looking for a party,” Gonzalez said.

He remembered stopping at a house in St. Marys where Andrew Schindler lived.

Schindler testified in court on Tuesday that Gonzalez, Bishop and two other guys, who were passed out, pulled up outside his house at about 4:30 a.m.

“They needed some cigarettes,” Schindler said.

Schindler went outside when he noticed the car pulling up. He said he saw the .40-caliber gun fall out of Gonzalez’s lap when he got out of the car.

After holding the gun for a second, Gonzalez appeared to put it away. But he later came around the car, Schindler said, and pointed it near his head.

Schindler didn’t report the incident to police immediately, but officers contacted him after Bishop was shot and killed.

Gonzalez’s attorney, Ron Evans, asked Schindler if he thought Pablo pointed the gun at him in a joking manner.

“I was thinking so, yeah,” Schindler said.

Pottawatomie County Attorney Sherrie Schuck asked Schindler if he found the joke funny.

“Not at all,” he said.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez said he didn’t recall pointing the gun at Schindler.

“I don’t doubt it, but I don’t remember it,” he said.

Bishop was shot sometime shortly after Gonzalez and the others left Schindler’s house.

Gonzalez said he didn’t think the gun was loaded.

“At one point in time, I had the gun to my head and, uh, Levi looked over at me and said, ‘Don’t do that (Pablo),’” Gonzalez said. “I looked over at him and said, ‘What? It’s not loaded.

“And I pulled the trigger.”

An autopsy examining Bishop’s wounds later suggested the gun was touching him when it fired.

“I don’t really remember placing it up against anything,” Gonzalez told Schuck when pressed on where he was pointing the gun.

After the gun fired, Gonzalez drove to the St. Marys Police Department, where he said he told an officer his friend needed help.

Later that morning, Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Department authorities interviewed Gonzalez.

“I don’t really remember talking too much to them,” Gonzalez said.

A blood sample taken from Gonzalez later showed he had a blood alcohol content level of 0.25 when he was interviewed.

In an interview recording that was played for the jury on Tuesday, Gonzalez repeatedly said the gun discharged accidentally and may have been caused by a bump in the road or a malfunction with the firearm’s trigger safety.

But on Wednesday, Schuck asked Gonzalez whether any of those factors had anything to do with the shot going off .

He said no.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday morning.

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