Benjamin Schweitzer takes the stand in his own defense. (Tavia D. Green / The Leaf Chronicle)
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Benjamin Schweitzer took the stand in his own defense Wednesday afternoon and gave the jury a firsthand glimpse into what happened on March 15, 2012, when he shot Sgt. 1st Class Frederic Nicholas “Nic” Moses five times and later shot police officer James Eure.
Schweitzer, 28, is charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the March 15, 2012, killing of Moses, who was shot five times inside of 3388 Quicksilver Court and ran to a neighbor’s home, where he died on the porch.
Moses’ blood trail led police to the home. When they attempted to clear it, they found a locked bedroom where Schweitzer had barricaded himself. When Eure and Officer Shawn Brown kicked the door open, they were met with gunfire. Eure was shot in the left arm. Schweitzer is charged with both of their attempted murders.
Schweitzer said he was a guest at the Quicksilver Court home and cleaned it while the homeowner and other tenants were deployed and at trainings. He was staying at the home frequently, instead of commuting to his home in Nashville. He stayed in friend Will Myer’s room a few times a week.
Moses had recently returned from deployment. Schweitzer said he had met Moses on a few occasions, but they never fought or had any problems.
The morning of March 15, Schweitzer was off from work. He indulged in his drug of choice, Ketamine, a general anesthesia and sedative he researched as a medic for the 5th Special Forces Group. Schweitzer had been using the drug intravenously since January 2012. He said he became withdrawn and began sleeping a lot. He used Army-issued syringes to shoot up, but he ordered the drug from an online pharmacy.
Schweitzer had lost his top secret clearance pending an investigation and was told he could not deploy. He was upset about his situation.
'All I had time to do was react'
“I was knocked out on the bed laying down,” he said. “Something woke me up. I heard a crash in the kitchen. ... I grabbed my pistol beside my bed. I slipped it in the pants I was wearing and went out. As I walked out into the hall, as I came around the corner, I saw someone coming at me and I didn’t recognize who it was. All I had time to do was react. I fired off a string of rounds. I didn’t aim. As the person was coming towards me, they fell and I ran back to my room.”
Schweitzer said he fired four to five rounds in two seconds. He did not know it was Moses, that he had shot him or that Moses died shortly after.
He said the side effects of the drugs affected him. His vision was blurred, his ears were ringing and he couldn’t process what had just happened.
On Wednesday, the jury heard the final pieces of evidence from the state and from Schweitzer, the defense’s only witness.
Earlier in the morning, Lt. Phil Ashby testified he called Schweitzer seven times to negotiate with him. Schweitzer, who had been shot in the leg, exited the home once tear gas and an eyeball camera had been deployed by the Clarksville Police Tactical Unit.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents testified that Moses’ blood was found on Schweitzer’s clothing.
On Thursday morning, the jury will be instructed by the judge and hear closing arguments from Assistant District Attorneys Art Bieber and Tim Peters. Chase Smith, Schweitzer’s attorney, will also give a closing argument before the jury deliberates. Smith asked the judge to include involuntary manslaughter due to impairment as part of the instructions.
'Everything happened very quickly'
Schweitzer could not explain how Moses was shot in the back of his body. He tried to offer an explanation that Moses tripped and fell forward after the first shot and received wounds to the back of his neck, chest, thigh, foot and ear.
Schweitzer said Moses was not armed and “everything happened very quickly.”
After the shooting, Schweitzer said he locked himself in the bedroom, put his gun on the bed and tried to call his girlfriend, Amanda, who was deployed to Turkey with the Air Force.
He said he was impaired and did not hear the Clarksville Police Department announce themselves or enter the home.
“The door flies open. I reacted. I just fired three rounds off. All I saw was a shadow in the door, and the room started coming apart around me. There were shots fired from multiple direction. I got hit in the leg,” Schweitzer said. “I rolled onto the floor, and there’s a bunch of rounds coming through the wall. I looked out the door and saw someone run across. I saw it was a policeman, and at that point, I locked the slide. They were yelling to throw it out. ... I got close to the door and slid it out.”
Schweitzer said he didn’t know who or what he was shooting at.
Schweitzer said once he was shot he woke up from the drug’s heavy sedation. Schweitzer said he had used the medicine to sleep and denied being a “junkie.”
He moved over to his medical equipment and applied a tourniquet to his wounded leg. The door kept flying open and he used something to close it, he said.
“There’s several people out there with guns, and they had reason to feel I was a threat, so I didn’t want to go out there and get shot,” Schweitzer said.
He surrendered after tear gas filled the home.
Schweitzer said he did not recall talking to Lt. Ashby or talking to TBI agents during interrogation. He claims once he was taken to the hospital and treated for his gunshot wound, he passed out from medication he was given. The next thing he said he remembered was being taken to the Montgomery County Jail.
Bieber asserted Schweitzer used the extensive 5th SFG training in urban warfare and medical training that was supposed to protect his fellow soldiers and used it to kill a fellow soldier.
Despite admitting to taking drugs, he said he was not asking the jury to excuse his behavior because of the drug use.
Schweitzer said it wasn’t the Army’s fault and he was responsible for everything that happened.
“I did not intend for any of this to happen,” Schweitzer said. “I’m responsible for everything that happened. I think about it every day. It kills me.”