Man charged with murder testifies he acted in self defense

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 5:55 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The question isn’t whether Kristoffer Lee Klesath, who is charged with murder, shot Darton A. Fields II in self-defense or whether it was murder, according to testimony Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court.

Klesath testified that the man he shot had fired a shot at Klesath in the past, was known to carry a gun, and was pulling a pistol when Klesath shot him on a west-central Topeka street.

Klesath, 31, wore jail coveralls as he testified Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court about the shooting of Darton A. Fields II, 34, of Topeka, on May 25, 2019.

Klesath is charged with alternative counts of felony first-degree murder or intentional second-degree murder, aggravated robbery of a gun from Fields, and criminal possession of a firearm, according to court records.

Klesath had had a series of past run-ins with Fields, who was known to carry a gun, Klesath testified.

“I was scared,” Klesath testified of the shooting outside Charlie’s Retail Liquor, 1235 S.W. Huntoon. “I thought he was going to (shoot me) then.”

An outdoor store surveillance camera showed Klesath as he jogged around a corner on Huntoon, then spotted Fields and two other men standing there.

Klesath and Fields were two- or-three-feet apart when Klesath recognized Fields, who said, “I’m going to shoot your a--,” Klesath testified.

Klesath jogged past Fields, then immediately turned to return to Fields, Klesath testified.

Klesath thought Fields was reaching for a gun in his pocket, then Klesath grabbed Fields' right arm.

Fields' gun had fallen to the pavement, and Klesath pointed his gun at Fields' head and fired, Klesath testified.

During questioning by Deputy District Attorney Brett Watson, Klesath disagreed with the prosecutor that Fields was “defenseless.” Klesath thought he was defending himself when he shot Fields, Klesath testified.

Klesath intended to save his own life when he shot Fields, Klesath testified.

Before leaving the area, Klesath picked up Fields' gun from the pavement, Klesath testified.

Two weeks before the fatal shooting, Fields had threatened Klesath and on another occasion, Fields acknowledged to Klesath that he had mistakenly fired a shot at Klesath, Klesath testified.

Klesath thought if he didn’t shoot Fields, then Fields would shoot Klesath, he testified.

Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham will rule whether to dismiss charges against Klesath based on alleged immunity by Klesath. Defense attorney KiAnn Caprice filed the immunity motion and a defense motion seeking to suppress Klesath’s statements to Topeka police on May 28, 2019.

Klesath was convicted in 2008 in Reno County, Kansas, of charges of aggravated battery and robbery, which are felonies, and one count of misdemeanor criminal damage to property, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.

On Tuesday, Klesath remained in Shawnee County Jail in lieu of a $1 million cash or professional surety bond, according to jail records.

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