After prosecutors rested their case on Wednesday afternoon in the murder trial of 37-year-old Jonathan Douglas Shaw, the defendant took the stand and told a Flathead County jury that he feared for his life when the managers of Fuel Fitness and Nutrition confronted him about sleeping in the business’s parking lot. Shaw shot the gym’s manager, Matthew Hurley, during the exchange because he thought he reached for a weapon, according to his testimony.
Shaw has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of deliberate homicide and a second felony count of attempted deliberate homicide in the Sept. 16, 2021 shooting that left Hurley dead and gym patron William Keck injured. Judge Dan Wilson is presiding over the trial, which began July 10 and has largely featured evidence and testimony portraying Shaw as the aggressor, and depicting his habit of sleeping in the facility’s parking lot as the inciting incident.
On the third day of trial, however, the defense called on Shaw to describe his version of what unfolded outside the fitness center, which he characterized as a stand-your-ground scenario. Shaw said he felt threatened when Hurley and his co-worker, Matthew Underhill, approached him to revoke his membership and refund his money, which witnesses said occurred only after Shaw ignored repeated warnings about the gym’s policy against overnight parking.
Contradicting earlier witness testimony that described instances in which Shaw had interacted with Hurley and Underhill, he told jurors he wasn’t aware they were Fuel Fitness employees. He also told the court he’d received permission to park overnight in the parking lot from an employee at the front desk.
According to Shaw, he awoke on the morning of Sept. 16 in the Fuel Fitness parking lot and was leaving to follow up on job prospects when he spotted two men that he did not recognize approaching him.
Shaw said he rolled down his window to engage the men, who he later identified as Hurley and Underhill, and saw one of them place an envelope on his detached trailer in the lot. When Shaw asked what was inside the envelope, the man refused to answer his questions.
At this point, Shaw said he began following the men and pressing them for information, but they rebuffed him. Finally, Shaw said Hurley shouted profanities at him while Underhill reached into his hoodie pocket, appearing angry.
Suffering from coronary artery disease, which Shaw said rendered him unable to run away, the defendant told jurors he feared for his life.
“It looked like he was reaching for something in his waist band,” Shaw told jurors. “It looked like a threat to my life … there’s nothing to do except react in that situation.”
According to Shaw, he drew from his pocket a Walther 9mm pistol, which he always carried on him, and fired four shots at Hurley, who he said fell backwards.
Still fearing for his life, Shaw said he ran back to his truck to retrieve his phone and call 911. When he heard gunshots, he reversed his truck and crashed into his trailer.
“I look over and grab my phone and a bullet comes zinging past my nose,” Shaw said.
Shaw said he didn’t know who was shooting at him, but said a round hit him and he began to bleed profusely.
“What am I supposed to do in this situation?” Shaw tearfully asked the jurors before leaning on the stand to collect himself.
At this point, Shaw said his memory became fuzzy and he told the jury he didn’t remember firing back at the shooter, who he later learned was William Keck.
“Maybe somehow I was reacting to it – it’s entirely possible,” Shaw said. “I’m not going to deny that I tried to fire back … I don’t know if I fired rounds back. I don’t remember.”
Shaw said his next conscious memory was of the intensive care unit at Logan Health, where he says indescribable pain overtook his body as he gazed up at the fluorescent light.
Shaw’s injuries left him unable to walk without assistance from a walker, he said.
Reflecting on the shooting, Shaw said he would have reacted to the situation differently if he had known Hurley and Underhill were not armed.
“I would never kill somebody who’s unarmed – ever,” Shaw said.
Under direct examination from defense counsel, Shaw described growing up in a broken family in Florida and moving to Kalispell with his father in 2009. Shaw said his father’s death in 2020 left him devastated and financially destitute.
Shaw’s landlord evicted him from his apartment, and he bought a trailer that he hooked up to his truck and converted into a living space. Since Shaw already had a membership to Fuel Fitness, he began staying overnight in the parking lot.
Also on Wednesday, Judge Wilson denied a motion made by Shaw’s defense attorneys to dismiss the second felony of attempted deliberate homicide, arguing self-defense after a witness said he saw Keck fire the first shot.
The trial will resume Thursday at 9 a.m. with cross-examination of Shaw.
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