Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A Garden Grove man who shot his neighbor in the eye with a .44-caliber Magnum revolver, culminating years of feuding, was acquitted of first-degree murder Thursday and a mistrial was declared when jurors deadlocked on second-degree murder.

Jurors deliberated for about 14 hours in the trial of Robert Joseph Price, 55, who was charged in the June 21, 2013, shooting death of Glen Ray Berry.

“They’re disappointed obviously,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Herrera said of Berry’s family.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal on a second-degree murder charge, Herrera said.

Price was ordered to return to court April 22 for a hearing on whether to proceed with the case.

Price, a city building inspector, was tired after a day of work and went to bed early that night, but was roused by an exploding firecracker tossed into his yard by his 53-year-old neighbor.

A few hours later, Price volleyed back a firecracker in Berry’s yard, touching off the deadly confrontation.

“Words were exchanged and (Price) fired one round, and that one round was the ultimate payback,” Herrera said in her opening statement.

Price lived at 12681 Poplar St., and Berry lived at 12682 Taylor St., and their backyards faced each other. A lemon tree that attracted pesky birds into Berry’s yard was initially a source of conflict as Berry would sometimes use firecrackers to scare them away, Herrera said.

“There were years of bickering, almost 15 years of it,” between the feuding neighbors, whose properties shared cinder block wall, Herrera said.

“These men at times acted like 12-year-old boys,” the prosecutor said.

About a year before the deadly conflict, the two arrived at a “truce” following a chance conversation between Berry and Price’s wife, who both realized they shared common ground involving an illness.

The truce held for some months and then the relationship grew toxic again, Herrera said.

About 9 or 10 p.m. on June 20, Berry set off firecrackers in the yard. It’s not clear why, but it woke up a snoozing Price, Herrera said. Price fired back about 1:10 a.m. with a firecracker blast of his own, waking Berry, she said.

Jurors saw video surveillance footage showing Berry emerging from his home nude and hollering, Herrera said. He grabbed some wooden sticks and began bashing them against the wall between the neighbors’ homes, she said.

After several minutes of thrashing the sticks against the wall, Berry put on some shorts, a tank top and flip-flops and went over to Price’s home, Herrera said. He told his wife he was going to see what’s going on, and did not appear as agitated anymore, according to Herrera.

Berry pounded on Price’s steel security door, demanding that his neighbor open it, the prosecutor said. When Price opened the door, “words were exchanged briefly and then he fired one round through the locked deadbolt, security door straight into Mr. Berry’s face,” Herrera said.

Price dialed 911 and calmly explained to the dispatcher what happened, the prosecutor said.

“Uh, I shot my neighbor. I think he’s dead,” she quoted Price as telling the dispatcher. “He came over and I thought he had a gun.”

Price also told the dispatcher that his neighbor “reached for a gun” and “took a swing at me and I took a shot through the screen,” according to Herrera.

Berry was unarmed — he had just a mouth guard in his pocket, the prosecutor said.

While being questioned by police, Price’s account “evolved” and included multiple contradictions, Herrera said. At one point during the police interview, Price complained of the back and forth with his neighbor, saying of the shooting, “He does it all the time and then it’s just, it was just payback,” according to Herrera.

Evidence in the trial included forensic analysis of the gunshot wound that indicated Berry was too close to Price to have taken a swing at his neighbor, Herrera said. Price also had his own surveillance system with a monitor that would have shown that Berry approached his neighbor’s door wearing just a tank top, shorts and sandals, Herrera said.

During their feud when Berry was throwing rocks into Price’s yard, the defendant was angered when one of his pit bulls was hurt, so he threatened to kill Berry, Herrera alleged.

Police were called a few years prior to the killing when the cocking of a gun was heard in Price’s yard, she said.

Price’s attorney, Doug Myers, told jurors, “This wasn’t payback. … This is a case of self-defense. This case is in part about the right to be secure in one’s own home … This is also about Glen Berry losing control.”

When Berry left his home to confront Price, “He was not calm. He was mad and he was upset and he was out of control,” Myers said.

Berry was hurling “large chunks of wood” at the shared wall and then over the fence onto Price’s roof and greenhouse, Myers said.

Neighbors half a block away heard the ruckus, he said. Likewise, neighbors could hear Berry “pounding” on Price’s steel security door, Myers said.

“It sounded like he was trying to bust his door down,” the defense attorney said.

The attorney said there were several incidents over the years, including when Price’s son was 12 years old and claimed that Berry, on two separate occasions, chased after him with his vehicle while the boy was on his bike, Myers said.

The son was so spooked by the encounters he would call the police himself on occasions when he heard the firecracker blasts, fearing that Berry was firing a gun in the yard, the lawyer said.

Price’s wife also called police, complaining of gunshots from Berry’s yard after hearing fireworks explosions, Myers said.

In April 2012, Price’s wife called police, saying Berry was “driving recklessly” in front of her home before hollering for Price to come out of his residence, Myers said.

“That’s another reason Mr. Price thought Glen Berry had a gun” on the night of their last conflict, Myers said.

The dispute appeared to be resolved when Berry and Price’s wife had the shared moment about their illnesses, Myers said. Berry demanded an apology for “rude” remarks Price made about Berry’s daughter a decade prior and Price capitulated, Myers said.

“They shook hands and agreed this is stupid,” Myers said. But the victim “couldn’t let go of his anger and resentment,” the attorney said.

In April 2013, Berry called police and falsely alleged Price was growing marijuana, so when Berry came over the night of the shooting in a rage, Price thought he was armed and tried to take a swing at him, Myers said.

Berry also said, “(Expletive) you, I’m going to kill you” before Price shot him, Myers alleged.

Between his statement to the 911 dispatcher and to detectives in the hours following the shooting, Price’s characterization of the incident was “generally consistent,” Myers said.

— Wire reports 

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