A New Jersey prosecutor has accused 23-year-old Christian Smith of shooting his 43-year-old stepfather, Dennis McKenzie because he allegedly disagreed with McKenzie about a gay individual who had been invited to a celebration at their house, the prosecutor said.
At the time of the October 9 shooting, Smith was temporarily living in the house, located in the New Jersey township of Woolwich, with his mother and McKenzie, according to NJ.com.
During a celebration, McKenzie’s relative invited a friend to the house. Smith objected to the friend’s sexual orientation, Assistant Prosecutor Dana Anton said.
“He made it known to his stepfather that he did not approve of that person coming into their house…that their house was a house of God,” Anton said. Smith used an anti-gay slur during the incident, the prosecutor added.
Smith’s comments reportedly led to an argument between himself and McKenzie. At that point, Smith’s mother told investigators that she physically placed herself between the two men.
As the argument escalated, McKenzie eventually “took a swing” at Smith and “maybe superficially hit him” without inflicting physical injury, Anton said.
In response, Smith allegedly revealed a Glock 19 handgun tucked into his waistband and proceeded to shoot McKenzie twice in the head and once in the body, killing him. Smith’s mother and teen sibling reportedly witnessed the shooting.
A witness called 911. Officers from the Woolwich Township Police Department arrived at the residence around 4:15 p.m. local time. Police also found a disassembled gun on the family’s dining room table.
“This argument that proceeded the murder, it started over an act of bias and an act of bias intimidation where he is using a slur about somebody’s sexual orientation,” Anton said.
However, Smith’s public defender, Katherine Constantine Blinn, disputed Anton’s version of events. Blinn said the shooting was accidental, Yahoo News reported.
Blinn pointed out that Smith remained at the scene of the shooting and claimed that Smith had disassembled his gun so it wouldn’t harm others, leaving it in plain view for police to find.
“Exactly how this occurred and the specific manner of death needs to be fleshed out a little bit more with the forensics,” she said.
A judge disagreed with the possibility of the shooting being accidental.
“Even with the argument that this was somehow an accidental discharge, he still had to take a loaded handgun out of his waistband at a family gathering,” Superior Court Judge Mary Beth Kramer said in a recent court hearing. “I find that he represents a danger to the community.”
Smith was charged with first-degree murder and second-degree counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and possession of a weapon without a permit. He is currently detained in the Salem County Correctional Facility.
Newsweek contacted the Woolwich Township Police Department for comment.
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