Santa Rosa man on trial in shooting says gun went off after struggle

An ex-convict on trial for allegedly shooting a man to death on a southwest Santa Rosa street testified Wednesday that the victim's brother pulled the gun on him and it went off during a struggle.

Latroy Clinton Sr., 41, of Santa Rosa, said he was being beaten by the victim, Oscar Valencia, 23, after arriving home late at night and finding the man and three friends outside his house.

Clinton said Valencia's older brother, Jamie, and their friend, Miguel Ceja, joined in, pounding him with punches and kicks. Jaime Valencia drew a pistol and the gun discharged when Clinton took it away from him, he said.

The bullet struck Oscar Valencia in the face, killing him.

"I grabbed it and it popped," said Clinton, his voice cracking with emotion through parts of his testimony.

Clinton said he aimed the chrome revolver at the others before running to his nearby van and screeching off. He said he didn't see Oscar Valencia fall but figured he was hurt.

"From the way his brother was looking I could see it was bad," Clinton testified.

Clinton fled down Highway 101 in his van, leading police on a high-speed chase. His car was disabled by spike strips in Marin County and he was arrested after hiding in a tree and trying to steal a car from a passerby, police said.

The gun was found along the highway.

His lawyer, Walter Rubenstein, suggested Clinton fled because of his long criminal record. Clinton faces a life prison term if convicted of any violent or serious felony under the state's three strikes sentencing law.

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