OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – The man charged with killing Auburn police officer Will Buechner and wounding two others took the stand late Thursday afternoon claiming he had a psychotic break when he shot three officers after strangling his girlfriend. 

Capital Murder Defendant Grady Wilkes testified the night of the deadly shooting he had been arguing with his girlfriend and drinking to excess. He told the jury what he told his girlfriend after begging her not to break up with him. 

“I said I loved you, you are trying to take everything away from me. You are trying to take him away from me, as in my son, and I begin to strangle her,” testified Wilkes. 

Wilkes testified he told the girlfriend to leave, worried he’d hurt her. 

“And as I did in times of frustration and stress when she’s not around – I put my gear on,” said Wilkes.

Wilkes says putting on his gear or his National Guard armor and weapons, made him feel safe and powerful. So, he dressed in his bulletproof vest and helmet, then loaded his rifle, magazines, and packing a Glock. But apparently he was not comforted enough, because Grady testified he had a psychotic break when he heard a knock on the door.

“I went to the door. I think it’s Brooklyn coming back – as soon as I opened the door standing in front of me there is an officer,” testified Wilkes. 

District Attorney Jessica Ventiere countered in cross examination, if Wilkes was trying to win his girlfriend back why would he greet her at the door wearing his tactical gear and holding a rifle? 

Wilkes continues to claim an officer was pointing a gun at him, so he reacted and fired, and Wilkes only wanted them to back off and go away. Venturi also questioned that part of Wilkes’ story saying the officer’s body cam video shows the officers were getting off the porch and were shot anyway.

Wilkes: “I saw the officer’s gun raised at me and that’s what led to the reaction.”

Ventiere: “But when you watch that video specifically, Evan Elliotts, they all had their backs to you and they were off the porch.”

Wilkes: “Yes ma’am and you hear me scream hey get back.”

Ventiere: “So why fire a weapon if they were off your porch?”

Wilkes says after the shooting he called 911 to report he thought he had injured an officer. Wilkes testified he did not know he had shot Officer Buechner or that he was dying in a ditch. 

Jurors learned Officer Buechner was struck twice, severing his spine and puncturing his lungs. Through Buechner’s body cam  jurors heard him utter his last words “Lord, please help me” as he struggled for air and died.

Wilkes says he did not turn himself into the police because he feared he would be killed. Wilkes testified he spent the night at a creek bed and hid the rifle, Glock, and gear, not wanting someone to find a loaded weapon. Wilkes testified he was in the process of trying to turn himself in when agents located him. Wilkes told jurors the arresting officers beat him up before they took him to the police department.

Up next, the defense is expected to call their mental health experts to the stand.  Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.