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Marcus Weldon, the man dubbed the “Santa Shooter,” said it was his love for his 7-year-old daughter that got him through a trial on assault and gun charges in a downtown gas station shooting he said was in self defense.

Weldon on Tuesday celebrated his acquittal with his child, his parents and members of his church on criminal charges for a shooting that left one man seriously wounded.

“I had to stick to my guts and my lord Jesus Christ,” Weldon said at Martin Evans Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s east side.

The shooting a year and a half ago just before Christmas stemmed from an argument Weldon, dressed as Santa Claus, and two men had at the business on East Jefferson near Larned.

The 28-year-old single father had just left a holiday party with a female co-worker, Erica Johnson, who was dressed at Mrs. Claus, at the MGM Detroit casino where Weldon is an electrical engineer.

Weldon and his attorney have maintained Weldon was coming to Johnson’s aid after an argument broke out between them and the two men, Salah Rifai and Omar Pady. She was being physically harassed by one of the men, Weldon maintains.

Weldon fired and wounded both men. Rifai received a serious injury to an arm. Pady received a minor wound to the wrist. Weldon also said one of the other men fired a gun as well.

Weldon was charged with two counts each of assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of felony firearm.

Weldon said he was offered several plea deals but turned them down because he was innocent and acting in self-defense.

On Monday, the jury acquitted him on the charges and Weldon said he hugged and thanked the jurors.

Weldon said he spent $30,000 on legal fees and paying for expert witnesses to testify on his behalf. He said he is not ruling out a possible civil lawsuit in the matter.

He also said he is focused on rebuilding his life and spending time with his daughter, of whom he received full custody last year. She “was going to school having people call her daddy ‘Santa Shooter.’

“There’s definitely no justice in the system here,” Weldon said Tuesday. “It definitely could have been another Davontae Sanford. My civil rights were violated. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office should be investigated by the Department of Justice.”

Weldon said the 911 tape of a call by the gas station clerk saying Weldon and one of the men were shooting was not admitted into evidence during the trial. That and other witness statements “would have exonerated me.”

Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, said Tuesday “we charged the case based on the facts and evidence that supported the charges. The jury viewed the evidence differently and found him not guilty. We always respect the jury and the deliberative process, even though we don't always agree with the outcome.”

Weldon’s defense attorney, David Cripps, said he is happy the jury did “the right thing” and acquitted Weldon.

“They found it to be a valid self-defense (shooting),” Cripps said Tuesday. “They understood what it feels like when faced with a ... situation where your life is in danger.”

Cripps, who was retained by Weldon, said his client did not have a criminal record and that he had a permit to carry his gun. Cripps said Weldon only “took whatever actions necessary” to protect himself and his co-worker from possible harm from Rifai and Pady.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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