- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

WOODBURY, N.J. (AP) - A former southern New Jersey police officer charged in the shooting death of a friend testified that he thought the gun that fired the fatal bullet wasn’t loaded.

James Stuart made the comments Thursday during his trial on charges of murder and manslaughter in the January 2013 death of David Compton. The 27-year-old Compton was shot once in the face as the men watched a movie at Stuart’s house.

The former Deptford police officer testified that Compton came to his home after they were at a bar and that Compton asked to look at Stuart’s off-duty weapon while they were watching a movie. Stuart said he took out the gun’s magazine and removed a live round and did the same with two other guns that he retrieved from a safe.

Stuart said he eventually fell asleep with the guns on the couch and when he woke up, he picked up his off-duty weapon.

“I was going to dry fire the gun at the television,” Stuart said. “I started to pull back the trigger, and I heard Dave start to speak. When I turned to look at him, I guess my hand turned with me. I heard a loud boom.”



Stuart said he called a dispatcher to get medical help for Compton and tried to put pressure on Compton’s wound.

“There’s no way I would’ve done that on purpose in a million years,” Stuart said. “I thought those guns were safe. I had no idea they were loaded. I’d made them safe at the beginning of the evening, and I thought they still were. I would’ve never done anything to hurt him.”

Stuart’s blood-alcohol content tested 0.14 percent, above the state’s legal limit of 0.08 for the purposes of alcohol-related offenses. Deptford police Capt. Brian Toal, head firearms instructor, testified that officers are forbidden from having their guns on them while intoxicated.

Mutual friends have testified that the men were close friends and amicable.

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