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Defendant Admits Shooting Into Truck Flying Confederate Flag

January 12, 1996

SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. (AP) _ A black teen-ager Thursday admitted firing the shots that killed a white driver of a pickup truck flying a Confederate flag.

Freddie Morrow, 18, testified that as his friends cried: ``Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!″ he fired from a moving car into the pickup driven by 19-year-old Michael Westerman.

Morrow said that his group had planned to stop Westerman and his wife, both white, and fight the man over the flag.

Morrow is one of three black teen-agers on trial on charges of murder, kidnapping and civil rights violations in the Jan. 14 slaying. The others are Damien Darden, 18, and Marcus Merriweather, 16. A fourth man in the car testified against the others in return for two years’ probation.

All four are from Guthrie, Ky., a town of 1,800 near the Tennessee line.

Morrow said he had brought his pistol with him for protection in case he encountered trouble later in nearby Clarksville, Tenn., where the young men had planned to see a movie.

Darden was driving the car when the men began chasing the pickup as it left a convenience store. ``Everybody in the car with me was talking about the flag,″ Morrow said. ``I had a feeling something was going to happen.″

Morrow said he told his companions he had a gun. When their car caught up with the Westerman truck, Morrow said, the others urged him to shoot.

But Darden testified that no one encouraged Morrow to shoot. He said he was offended and angered _ but not enough to want to kill _ when he saw the truck at the market and Morrow said the driver had used a racial epithet.

``I’m a fighter, not a killer,″ Darden said.

Westerman’s widow, Hannah, testified earlier that she switched places with her mortally wounded husband and guided their four-wheel-drive pickup truck through ditches and into a parking lot.

Three black men approached the truck, and she raced back through a ditch onto the highway and drove to a hospital. Her husband later died.

Circuit Judge Robert Wedemeyer is hearing the case without a jury. The defendants could get life in prison.

U.S. Attorney John Roberts said he is attending the trial to see if any federal laws were violated. NAACP leaders said they are also attending.

``It’s always regrettable when young African-Americans are involved in situations like this. You can always walk away,″ said Jerry Jerkins, past president of the Clarksville NAACP chapter.

As Jerkins talked with reporters, a four-wheel-drive pickup with Confederate flag flying circled the courthouse.

Defense attorneys rested their cases Thursday and the judge scheduled closing arguments for Friday morning.

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