Defense or attempted murder? Prosecutor, attorney disagree on July 4 shooting

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VASSAR TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (7/8/2019) - Was it attempted murder or the lawful self defense of others?

Trevor Payne is accused of shooting a 38-year-old man in Vassar Township, but his attorney said the shooting was in defense of others.

A Bay County man is facing life behind bars, but his lawyer says he was trying to stop an assault. A jury may have to decide what actually happened the night of July 4th.

Trevor Payne, 21, is accused of shooting a 38-year-old man in the head with a 20-gauge shotgun during an altercation at a home on Brown Road in Vassar Township. But the man reportedly had been assaulting his wife and Payne stepped up to stop him.

Payne has been arraigned on eight criminal charges, including assault with intent to murder.

Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene said police initially were called to investigate the alleged domestic abuse. Payne allegedly shot the man while officers were rushing to the scene.

"What is clear is that at the time of the shooting there was no active assault upon anyone and the victim was shot at close range with a short handled shotgun in the head," Reene said.

Payne called 911 after he shot the 38-year-old, who continues to recover. Reene said the man's condition has stabilized with a significant injury to one of his ears.

"His intent was to stop an assault, not to commit a murder or to injure anybody," said Payne's attorney, Jason Gower.

He has heard from witnesses who said the shooting victim continued to assault the woman when Payne fired the gunshot. Gower believes this is a self defense of others case and the size disparity between Payne and the man he shot may have played a role in the use of the firearm.

"The alleged victim in this case is about two to three times larger than my client and it's obvious to me that he spends a lot of time lifting weights," Gower said.

Reene believes Payne had another option and wonders how this case would be perceived if a police officer fired the shotgun.

"If using a shotgun and shooting someone in the head is the best available option at that point in time by a private citizen -- again, thinking about if law enforcement arrived at the scene and they had taken that action -- who would be questioned right now about the action they took?" Reene said.