TAMPA — The gunshot that struck the mother of his twin babies just above the eye was a peace gesture gone awry, a jury heard a defendant say.
"I'm not a murderer," insisted Cedrick Salter, 30, a Tampa DJ charged with fatally shooting his girlfriend, Saquanda Simon, at her home on Sept. 8, 2009. "I didn't go there intending to kill my kids' mother. She was a sweet girl. I'm not a bad guy."
Salter's words — often interspersed with heaving sobs — were part of a videotaped statement he made to Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives after his arrest. At least one member of the jury broke down in tears as the video played Wednesday.
On the video, Salter contradicted much of the testimony given by the victim's family members, who were in the room when she was shot.
The family said Salter had come to the house in a rage after Simon hadn't responded to his numerous text messages. She was still dressed in blue scrubs from her job at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. They said he pursued Simon from room to room and refused to leave even after Simon's mother, Arleen Jackson, called 911.
The family said Salter suddenly pulled a gun and shot twice as Simon held one of the 18-month-old twins in her arms. The baby, they said, fell to the floor with her.
On the video, Salter said Simon was not holding the baby. "Do you think I would kill my daughter's mother with my daughter in her hands?"
He said Simon's mother had overreacted when she called 911. There was no real argument before the shooting, he said. "The mom was going crazy, screaming," he said.
Threatening text messages he had sent to Simon moments earlier were just "crazy," he said, only meant "to get her attention."
He also said the 9mm semiautomatic he carried was only for protection against muggers in the neighborhood.
After the mother's 911 call, he said he took the pistol from his pocket in order to hand it to the mother, whom he called Mama Gail.
"I said, 'Here, Mama Gail, hold the gun while we talk.' "
At that point, Salter said, two male family members grabbed his arms and pushed him from behind.
"My arm twisted up. The gun went 'POP! POP!' "
Then, "My mind went crazy."
He ran from the house.
The jury has not been told about a domestic violence complaint Simon made the previous March.
In the complaint, Simon said she had broken up with Salter after finding out he was seeing other women. She said Simon had texted her repeatedly, then came to her home. She said he forced her into a car and threatened to stab her with a screwdriver.
Her complaint was dropped after Simon failed to show up for a hearing.