Burke claims he shot Robles in self-defense
by NEAL PUTNAM
Published - 04/07/17 - 10:42 AM | 1725 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thomas Francis Burke
Thomas Francis Burke
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Thomas Francis Burke testified Thursday he saw “rage in his eyes” of his roommate’s boyfriend whom he shot to death at his Ocean Beach door, saying he did so in self-defense.

Burke, 33, a pharmacist and who is known with the nickname T.J., is charged with killing Jess Matthew Robles, 34, of Pacific Beach, who was the boyfriend of Larae Clark, his female roommate. Burke testified he received angry text messages from the man about an hour before the June 22, 2016, shooting at 4177 Voltaire St.

“I heard the bang on the door, and it (came) open,” said Burke, who denied opening the door after Robles knocked on it around 11 p.m.

Burke said he didn’t unlock or open the door, so his roommate had to have done that, although he didn’t see her. He said he had a gun in his pocket because of the tense text messages he received from Robles.

“I saw Robles there probably three feet away from me. I saw rage in his eyes. We were glaring at each other,” said Burke. “I saw his face clenched. I could tell he was there to damage me or harm me.

“I envisioned being tackled on the steps,” said Burke, describing the “tackle stance” the man used while at his door. “His arms were coming after me. He was too close. He was coming into my home. It happened so fast.

“I was in a panic,” said Burke, who conceded he shot Robles, but said he didn’t know that until later. “I didn’t see anything in his hands.”

His attorney, Gary Gibson, asked Burke why he didn’t call the police. “I was so freaked out. All I could think of was call a lawyer (afterwards),” he said.

Robles was shot in the throat and the second shot went into his chest. He collapsed at the doorway. The Lyft driver that was waiting for him on Voltaire Street testified he called 911.

Burke had texted his roommate that night and referred to Robles as “a douche bag” repeatedly. Robles eventually read all of the text messages that Burke sent Clark.

“Hey, (vulgarism!) Sounds like you have a lot to say about me behind my back,” wrote Robles on Clark’s phone to Burke. Both sides have said Burke was jealous of Robles as he had also developed feelings for Clark.

Most of the seats were filled this week in the trial before San Diego Superior Court Judge Melinda Lasater.

“I just shot Jess. I’m probably going to jail,” said Burke in a telephone call to his other roommate minutes after the shooting.

Burke said he left the gun on his bed, took the magazine with him, and jumped 15 feet off his balcony, spraining his left ankle. “I needed to get out of there. I needed to talk to lawyers,” said Burke.

He walked around all night long before surrendering to San Diego Police around 7:30 a.m. the next morning. Burke said he was unable to reach any attorney. “I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

Burke will return to the stand Friday afternoon when the murder trial resumes. He has not been cross examined by Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley, and it is possible Burke will still be testifying on Monday, April 10.

The defense attorney told the eight woman, four man jury Monday he would be seeking an acquittal based on self-defense. Sutterley said he would be seeking a first-degree murder conviction.

Burke wore a suit in court and he remains in jail on $4 million bail.
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