- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Montana man testified that he feared for his life when he shot and killed his neighbor in a rural subdivision southwest of Augusta.

Joe Campbell said he was thinking: “I gotta draw my gun or I’m not going to come out of this alive.”

Campbell is charged with deliberate homicide in the Oct. 18, 2013, death of Tim Newman near a gate on Campbell’s property. He was the final witness before the defense rested its case Wednesday.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock said jurors would hear closing arguments Thursday morning.

Defense attorneys asked Campbell about issues that arose after he purchased about 300 acres of property that area residents had been allowed to use for years to access U.S. Forest Service land. He said he worked with his neighbors to give them access to pass through certain areas, but the case ended up in court.

Campbell testified that he got along well with Newman from 2002 until the hunting season of 2012, when Newman began cutting fences and locks. The vandalism happened several more times, he said. In May 2013, Campbell rescinded Newman’s permission to cross his property.

Campbell said he had an encounter with Newman on Oct. 1, 2013, in which Newman said Campbell was the cause of all of his problems and he could go anywhere on his property. Campbell said Newman looked haggard, like he hadn’t slept for days and yelled that they should “‘just get it over with right now.’”

Campbell said he and his wife feared Newman and began changing their schedules to avoid him.

On the day of the shooting, Campbell said Newman began following them as they were returning home from visiting some friends. “He was looking for a confrontation. He was coming after us,” Campbell testified.

Frightened, they continued to a gate on their property, where Newman stopped his ATV. His behavior was bizarre, Campbell said.

Campbell’s wife left to call the sheriff. Soon after, Campbell said Newman pointed his gun at him and mumbled to himself: “‘Shoot him first, then cut the lock.’”

Campbell said he shot Newman, who leaned back, spun around and fell on his face. He said Newman was using his arms to try to get up when he shot him in the back.

“I was trying to get some vitals. I was trying to stay alive,” Campbell testified, before wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.

Prosecutors questioned Campbell about inconsistencies in his statements. Campbell told deputies shortly after the shooting that he told Newman he was armed. However, 10 days later when another officer asked when Newman first knew he was armed Campbell said it was when the first shot was fired.

Prosecutors have also argued that the first shot hit Newman in the back as he was trying to run away from Campbell.

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