A North County man accused of shooting and killing his neighbor called law enforcement officials asking specific questions about when it was justifiable to carry and fire a gun, according to testimony in the trial Tuesday.
John Upton, 56, was shot in March 2013 by his neighbor, Michael Vilkin. Vilkin has pleaded not guilty, claiming the shooting was done in self-defense.
As the trial continued Tuesday, testimony focused on discussions Vilkin had prior to the shooting regarding the perceived threat from Upton.
A San Diego County sheriff’s deputy testified he received a call from Vilkin asking about gun laws, explaining that his plan to put in a driveway was upsetting a neighbor.
Deputy Scott Hill testified Vilkin specifically asked when it was legally justified to carry a firearm on his property and when he was legally justified in using it.
Hill testified that Vilkin told him there had been no threats and no acts of violence.
Under cross-examination, Hill admitted he did not follow up and interview Upton or Vilkin.
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Local surveyor Vincent Sampo was hired by Michael Vilkin to check to see if there were any encroachments on a “panhandle” portion of Vilkin’s property that provided an easement for neighbors.
Sampo testified that Vilkin not only told him he had purchased a gun but also showed him the pistol in a case in the trunk of his car.
He said it was it was the first time anything like that had happened in years of surveying properties.
“He said that he purchased the gun because he was threatened by the neighbor,” Sampo said. “He wanted to use it in self-defense.”
“He had said something to the effect of… I’d rather spend my life in prison… than get blown away or something like that, get shot or something like that,” Sampo testified.
Under cross-examination, Sampo testified that Vilkin told him his neighbor also owned a gun.
Prosecutors say Upton had only a mobile phone on his body when officers arrived on scene.
If convicted, Vilkin could face 35 years to life in prison.