Fear is what an Elmore City man said drove him to shoot a man before dismembering his dead body and concealing the pieces in a farm pond nearly two years ago.
Calm and steady with some strong language mixed in was Justin Hammer’s testimony to jurors as he took the stand Wednesday to testify in his own first-degree murder trial. Now in the second week of his trial, Hammer told the eight-man, four-woman jury he was scared and afraid of Brandon Duran when he shot him inside of Hammer’s residence near Elmore City.
Hammer, 32, did not hesitate to admit to being the one who killed and dismembered Duran back on Aug. 7, 2012.
“Yes I did,” Hammer said when asked if he was the one who shot Duran, cut up the dead man’s body and place the parts in six containers which he then sunk in a pond on Hammer’s property. “I was at my house, by myself, in the evening when he showed up,” Hammer said from the witness stand.
He described having loud music playing and not hearing Duran come into the house.
“When I stepped into the living room from the kitchen he was standing there. I asked what the f**k are you doing in my house. I told him to get out of my f*****g house,” he said. “He said to me, ‘I want to tell you to stay away from Amber, we’re getting back together.’”
The reference is to Amber Andrews, who is Duran’s former wife and girlfriend of Hammer at the time of the deadly incident.
“I grabbed my shotgun and pistol off the top of my safe,” Hammer said. “He was standing there and I came toward him from the right side. I pointed it at his face and shot him,” he said about the shotgun being held in his right hand. “I shot him. When he hit the ground I shot him again. I didn’t hesitate. I was standing practically on top of him when I shot him again.”
The weapons were described as a .410 youth shotgun and a .22 caliber handgun, which Hammer said was held in his left hand and fired at just about the same time.
Previous testimony has shown Duran sustained one shotgun blast to the face but likely died from the three shots fired into his head with the handgun. Both weapons were later found inside the safe as the handgun still had blood on the handle.
After the shots Hammer claimed he was in shock and unsure of what to do next. He claims to have thought about calling law enforcement but instead decided to dispose of the body and try to conceal Duran’s death. The defendant claims fear is what motivated his decision to place Duran’s body in a large bag, drag it into his bathroom, use a saw to cut it in several pieces, 25 in all, and dispose of the parts in a nearby pond.
The fear, Hammer said, was from any potential reprisals by Duran’s friends, namely a biker club in California named the Bandidos. Hammer told jurors Duran used the Bandidos name to threaten him moments before the fatal shooting.
“He said he could have my whole family killed,” Hammer said. “I was in fear of retaliation from his friends in the Bandidos. All I was ever told was he was a 1 percenter in the Bandidos,” he said, adding that was a higher level member. “I associated them with the Hell’s Angels.”
The defendant, who described cutting up the various parts of Duran’s body, then denied buying various items in advance as part of a plan to conceal the death.
The items, including five plastic buckets and lids and ready mix concrete, were purchased by Hammer at a Pauls Valley hardware store days before the shooting. Hammer used his own store rewards card to make the purchases. Instead, Hammer claims the buckets were to transport water for the pit bull dogs he was raising on his property, while the concrete was make some repairs to the corner of a dog kennel. Hammer did admit to later lying to authorities because “I knew I had done something wrong. I was in a bad situation. I was scared. I was scared of going to jail. I had a fear of who Brandon was involved with.”
A verdict came Thursday and will be covered in this weekend’s edition of the Democrat.