AUBURN - Timothy Brooks told a Auburn, Calif., jury Thursday he never intended to kill Robert Ash, but that he panicked and had to defend himself after Ash struck him following a road rage incident in Tahoe City last summer.
"I pulled the knife out to protect myself," Brooks said. "I saw the man standing. He said, 'Oh, you have a knife. Come on, come on.' He came at me and swung. I had the knife and his hand came at my face. He went to kick and, at that point, I felt the knife hit him. He turned around and ran toward the street. I saw him fall."
In day four of his murder trial, Brooks told the 12-member jury what led to the assault that left Ash dead in the middle of the resort-town street and Brooks facing life in prison.
Brooks said he and his wife, Susie, were in their Toyota 4Runner on their way to Tahoe City when a man in a black sports car cut them off.
Brooks said he closed in on the driver, displayed his middle finger and honked.
He said the driver, who turned out to be Ash, "smirked" at him through his rear-view mirror.
"When we approached Squaw Valley, my wife suggested we look for the car," said Brooks, who mumbled throughout his testimony. "My wife wanted to get identification on the car."
When they could not locate Ash's car in Squaw Valley, they headed to Tahoe City to the Tahoe City Marketplace, Brooks said. As he and his wife tried to locate the store, they noticed Ash's car parked outside Syd's Bagelry.
"My wife said, 'That's the car, that's the car. Stop. Find a parking space,'" Brooks said. "I saw a parking lot and decided to park there."
Brooks testified that he parked his vehicle in the Big Tree Center and grabbed his sheathed fishing knife from the car.
"I had an idea that if no one was around maybe I would slash one of the tires of (Ash's) car," Brooks said. "I put the fishing knife in my pocket."
He said as he and his wife were crossing the street to Syd's, his wife saw Ash and went running to him.
Brooks testified that he told her to stop but that she kept running.
"I was thinking I didn't want confrontation and I didn't want my wife running over to a stranger," he said.
When Brooks arrived, he said he heard his wife tell Ash, "You cut us off, you could have killed us."
He said Ash then asked, "Are you the ones who honked on 89?" to which Susie Brooks replied, "You could have killed someone."
Brooks reported that Ash said, "So."
"I pointed at the car and said, 'You could have killed someone,'" Brooks testified. "Something changed in him. He looked like he wanted to fight. He puffed himself up and puffed up shoulders and he said, 'What are you going to do about it?'"
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran had Brooks admit he was angry before the stabbing and also revealed part of Brooks' statement to Davis.