Attorney: Mills “was only trying to protect himself” in fatal barbell beating

Jeffrey Mills doesn’t deny that he attacked Juan Paredes with a steel barbell on a Saturday afternoon in January 2012, a block from Columbia Heights metro. The beating, he says, was in self-defense.

Jeffrey Mills had no intention of killing Mr. Paredes,” Andrew Crespo, Mills’ attorney, told the court in opening statements Monday, saying Paredes had threatened to stab Mills. “He was only trying to protect himself.”

Mills, 50, is on trial for first-degree premeditated murder while armed in Paredes’s death. Prosecutors argued Monday that Mills struck Paredes multiple times with a barbell out of anger, causing his death.

Police found Paredes on January 14, 2012 just before 2:00 p.m. near the intersection of 14th and Park Street Northwest, beaten and lying on the ground.

He was transported to a local hospital where he died of his injuries the next day. Paredes died of blunt force trauma, an autopsy found, and his death was ruled a homicide.

Prosecutors said that on the day of the murder, Paredes was outside with his friends when Mills repeatedly yelled at him to move away from the area where he was selling products, once chasing Paredes with a plastic sword into the nearby grocery store.

According to court documents, Mills, a street vendor, told police that on the day of the attack Paredes had “threatened to cut him with a machete-shaped pocket knife.” Mills told detectives that Paredes stood near his vendor speaking in Spanish to other men nearby. Mills said one of the men may have stabbed him last year and that they were “taunting” him, documents say.

Kerry O’Leary, a resident of Columbia Heights, testified Monday that she often saw Mills selling products at a table on the corner of Park Road and 14th Street. Mills would sometimes lift weights with a large barbell, O’Leary said.

O’Leary told jurors that the day of the murder she saw Mills charge at Paredes with a “giant pole,” hitting Paredes in the head and causing him to fall.

He broad sided him,” O’Leary said. “When [Paredes] fell on the ground he stood over him and just kept jabbing at his gut with the end of the barbell.”

Lloyd Marlin, another Columbia Heights resident, told jurors that he found Paredes after the attack and sat him down on a bench nearby to wait for medical help. Marlin said Monday that while sitting with Paredes, he heard a man nearby yelling that “he had done it.”

Metropolitan Police Detective Han Kim testified Monday that police found Paredes at the crime scene bleeding profusely from his head. Mills was nearby sitting next to his white van when police arrived, Kim said.

Propped up against Mills’ van was the barbell Kim said was used to attack Paredes. No knife or other weapons were found at the crime scene, Kim said.

Trial is scheduled to continue tomorrow.

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