WASHINGTON, Pa. - A man who walked out of jail a free man last week after a jury decided he fatally shot a man in self-defense told his side of the story to Channel 11’s Cara Sapida on Wednesday.
“I like being free. I like going to sleep when I want to sleep and waking up when I want. I enjoy my children,” Brandon Thomas said Wednesday.
Thomas said he had no choice but to shoot 55-year-old Vaughn Simonelli after he was punched during the confrontation in a supermarket parking lot in 2012.
“I’m a father, a husband and a good guy who has some problems. That doesn’t make me a murderer,” Thomas said.
Washington County prosecutors argued that the 32-year-old got out of his vehicle and purposely shot Simonelli, of Chartiers Township, in the shoulder and back on Oct. 18, 2012.
But the defense argued Thomas fired in self-defense only after he was blocked in his parking space by Simonelli's vehicle, which witnesses say sped after Thomas' SUV after the men argued at a traffic light.
“There was nothing I could do to calm this person down. Emotions were overpowering intelligence,” Thomas said.
Some witnesses testified that Thomas, of Upper St. Clair, got out of his vehicle and shot Simonelli, while others supported Thomas' version that he shot from inside the vehicle as Simonelli threw a punch.
“I was guilty until proven innocent,” Thomas said.
After the verdict was read, the judge told Thomas, “Make sure nothing like this happens again. You’ve been given an opportunity. Get the help you need. Address your drug and mental health problems.”
Thomas said Wednesday he’s been enjoying his time as a free man.
“My son has been on my thigh, unstoppable, wanting me to sleep in bed with him. It’s a beautiful thing,” he said.