SANTA ANA — As co-workers gathered for a seminar in Brea, a colleague approached and fired shot after shot into a supervisor begging for his life, witnesses testified Thursday at the opening of the fellow employee's murder trial.
"He was just standing right over him, just pumping him," refinery technician Gene Olson said as testimony began in the trial of Rudy V. Terrenal. "[The victim] says, 'Why are you still shooting me? I'm already dead.' "
Terrenal, 59, of Chino also wounded another co-worker before he stopped firing and calmly stood around until police arrived, Olson testified in Orange County Superior Court.
Terrenal is accused of first-degree murder and attempted murder in connection with the Oct. 30, 1993, incident and faces up to life in prison if he is convicted.
He was described by the prosecutor as an able technician but a loner, bent that morning on killing David Dawkins, a supervisor at the Mobil Oil Corp. refinery in Torrance. Another worker, Steven Bowling, was shot but survived the attack.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Elizabeth Henderson said other refinery workers who had gathered for a hazardous-materials class thought the gunshots were fake.
"This was the day before Halloween. Many of them thought it was a joke," Henderson said during her opening statement. Henderson did not spell out a motive and declined to comment outside of court.
Terrenal's attorney opted against making an opening statement. But he said in an interview that his client was paranoid and had suffered teasing about his Filipino heritage from clubby co-workers.
"He suffered a tremendous amount of discrimination," said lawyer Joseph Shemaria. "They were just the good old boys club there and they made it intolerable for him."
Shemaria, signaling he would seek conviction on a lesser charge such as manslaughter or second-degree murder, said Terrenal was delusional and may have mistakenly believed he was about to be fired.
"He is paranoid delusional. Whether he came that way out of his mother's womb, I don't know. But over the years he developed paranoid delusional obsessions," Shemaria said.
Co-workers said Terrenal, who had worked at the refinery about eight years, was reclusive and seldom joined in as technicians ribbed each other. Olson said he had an angry confrontation with the defendant a day before the shooting, when he had told Terrenal to "look busy" for a visiting supervisor. But Olson said he did not threaten to fire him and lacked the power to do so.
Employees denied teasing Terrenal or making anti-Filipino slurs.
Terrenal arrived for the class in a van with messages stenciled on his windows, a Brea police officer testified. One window read, "I turned the other cheek, then they hit it too," Police Cpl. Jon Anderson said. He said the other read "Peggy Bundy is better than my wife," an apparent oblique reference to a character on television's "Married With Children."
The two shooting victims were joking in the parking lot before class when Terrenal walked up and fired repeatedly from a close distance, witnesses said.
Co-worker William Hill said Terrenal shouted as he approached Dawkins and Bowling. "He said, 'This will be the last time you mess with me,' " Hill testified.
Hill said Terrenal stopped shooting as Dawkins lay on the ground pleading for his life, then stood over him and opened fire again.
Dawkins died on the spot. Bowling was struck but managed to flee to a nearby parking lot and survived, the prosecutor said.
"For at least 10 minutes I thought they were blanks. I didn't see any blood and it was just so bizarre," Olson said.
Anderson said Terrenal was calm as he was handcuffed after the shooting and reported that there was a semiautomatic pistol in his jacket pocket. The defendant had a second loaded pistol in the van, the prosecutor said.
Dawkins' wife has a wrongful-death lawsuit pending against Terrenal and Mobil.