A Los Angeles man accused of opening fire in a crowded Torrance bowling alley in January 2019, killing three and injuring four, told a jury Tuesday that he was in fear for his life after seeing one of the men involved reach for a gun.
Reginald Leander Wallace, 51, told a Torrance Superior Court jury that he was in fear for his life when he fired 11 rounds at the brawl inside the Gable House Bowl on Jan. 4, 2019 to “protect myself and the people I was with,” as he testified in his own defense.
Wallace was accused of killing Astin Kyle Edwards, 28; Robert Earl Meekins Jr., 28; and Michael Di’Shawn Radford, 20. All three men were Los Angeles residents.
Wallace was arrested two days after the shooting.
Wallace faces three counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder, and a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged.
His public defender, Scott Johnson, asked the jury to “really listen to everything he tells you,” and find him not guilty of murder or attempted murder, but rather the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Johnson acknowledged that Wallace shot multiple people and left countless others traumatized, but said Wallace would explain why he did so in self-defense. Johnson’s line of questioning also honed in on Wallace’s upbringing in South Central Los Angeles, where Wallace said having a gun was the way people in that area were brought up.
“He stood his ground to protect himself,” Johnson said. “Before that, he was enjoying himself for quite some time, as others were.”
Prosecutors contended Wallace knew rival gang members were at the bowling alley and deliberately fired at them during the brawl.
Wallace testified that he went to the bowling alley, just south of the corner of Sepulveda and Hawthorne Boulevards, for a birthday celebration. He went with two other men, who he said were long-term friends, and a daughter of one of the men.
He took the handgun into the bowling alley, but was never looking to start trouble, he said. He drank brandy from a styrofoam cup and socialized for about an hour before a group of women started fighting near a concession stand and then about 15 men joined.
He suggested leaving, but as he approached the entrance door, the fight got closer and he saw one of the men reaching for his pocket, he testified. The other members of his group were not near him at that point.
One of the victims, Edwards, was found by police with a firearm in his right pocket, a Torrance police detective said during a preliminary hearing in March.
“I see the dude clutching, so I pulled out my weapon and I started shooting,” Wallace told the jury. “I didn’t have time to think. He stopped by the side of the video games and pulled a gun.”
Afterwards, he walked out of the bowling alley and later was picked up along Hawthorne Boulevard after his friends had called him, he said. During questioning by prosecutors, Wallace said he walked out because he was “taught not to panic.”
Wallace said he was high, “drunk as hell” and was taking medication for blood pressure and depression at the time of the shooting. He claimed he didn’t remember some of the details until the next day when he received multiple phone calls and messages from friends who showed him video circulating on social media.
He testified that one of the two men he was with got rid of the gun for him that same night.
He classified himself as an associate with a gang, but not actively involved. When questioned by prosecutors, he said he knew members of a rival gang were at the bowling alley prior to the shooting.
During cross-examination, prosecutor John Chang got Wallace to acknowledge that, in hours of recorded jailhouse conversation with another inmate, he never told the inmate he feared for his life or saw a gun.
Chang also had Wallace look at security video of the fight and asked him to tell Chang to stop the video at the moment where he saw Edwards reach for the gun. Wallace did not ask Chang to stop the video before it showed people reacting to the shooting, but claimed as the video was being played that it wouldn’t be seen from that angle.
Chang also honed in on Wallace’s claim of being in fear for his life by asking Wallace about his decision to pull the weapon and shoot when he could have taken a few steps to get out of the building. Instead, Wallace acknowledged he took two or three steps forward to get around a stairwell for a better view of the melee as he pulled the weapon.
“They made me react,” he said.
Wallace’s testimony will continue Wednesday.