A Desert Hot Springs resident charged in the shooting death of his roommate testified Thursday that the man assaulted and threatened to stab him after being asked to move out of the apartment.

Brian Keith Hernandez is charged with murder, assault with a gun and making criminal threats in the Feb. 28, 2017, death of 49-year-old Steven Nelson, who was shot in the back of the head at the Estancia Apartments, 13355 Verbena Drive. Nelson died the following day at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Hernandez, 49, testified that Nelson assaulted him, threatened to kill him, then twice reached for a knife out of a knife block in the apartment’s kitchen, prompting Hernandez to fire a warning shot, then the second shot that killed him.

According to Deputy District Attorney Anthony Orlando, an argument between Nelson and his girlfriend prompted the defendant to tell the couple that they had to move out. Four weeks after the argument, Hernandez insisted again, but Nelson and his girlfriend said they needed a few extra days, the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor’s trial brief alleges that the defendant told the couple: “You are gonna get out tomorrow, I don’t give a (expletive). It’s gonna go down tomorrow night if you don’t get out of here.”

But Hernandez testified that after asking Nelson to leave due to the girlfriend’s drug use, Nelson punched him twice in the head and placed him in a bear hug, forcing Hernandez to strike Nelson several times in the face in order to free himself.

Hernandez testified that he then went to his bedroom to retrieve his gun, at which point Nelson said he was going to stab him, then went to the kitchen to try and grab a knife.

Though Nelson’s attempt to grab the knife was unsuccessful, Hernandez said he shot Nelson out of “self-preservation. I was scared. I think he would have killed me. I really think he would have stabbed me to death.”

Hernandez said he felt justified in shooting Nelson, but regretted having to do it.

“I just wish the outcome was different,” he testified. “I just wish he would have left.”

The night of the shooting, a Desert Hot Springs police officer saw Hernandez pacing back and forth outside the apartment complex. Jurors heard a recording from the officer’s body camera recording device, which captured Hernandez telling the officer “Just check me and cuff me, I shot the guy upstairs.” Police found a .38-caliber revolver on his kitchen table.

Orlando said Nelson and Hernandez got into an argument that night in the apartment’s kitchen, and Nelson’s girlfriend, who was in a nearby bedroom, heard the defendant say, “So you want to play games?”

Nelson allegedly responded by saying, “Nah man. I’m not playing any games. What are you talking about? There is no games being played.”

The girlfriend later heard a gunshot, then ran out to find Nelson bleeding on the floor, according to the prosecution. Hernandez then pointed the gun at her and asked her “You want to be next?” according to Orlando.

Hernandez denied threatening or pointing the gun at her, saying he only told her to leave the apartment.

She then ran from the apartment, pounding on neighbors’ doors throughout the complex, leading one of the residents to call the police, the prosecutor said.

Hernandez is being held on $1 million bail.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.