Self-Defense or Murder? What Drove Man to Kill Neighbor

'It Wasn't Murder,' Raul Rodriguez says in exclusive interview.

ByABC News
September 13, 2012, 11:18 AM

Sept. 14, 2012— -- Two years before Florida's Trayvon Martin case brought national attention to state Stand Your Ground laws, another controversial Stand Your Ground case rocked a neighborhood -- this time, in the sleepy town of Huffman, Texas. There, in May 2010, 36-year-old Kelly Danaher was shot in front of his home during a birthday party for his wife and young daughter.

Huffman, 30 miles northeast of Houston, is the kind of place where neighbors borrow tools and bring food when there's a death in the family.

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Danaher's wife, Mindy Danaher, grew up there and returned to her family home with her husband and their three-year-old daughter, Peri. Kelly Danaher was a P.E. teacher.

The neighborhood was made up of people like Pete Fornols, Terri Hackathorn and Donna and Raul Rodriguez -- all of whom had escaped the city for more space and a little peace and quiet.

May 1, 2010, began with a celebration of Mindy and Peri Danaher's birthdays. Kelly Danaher had filled the yard with activities for the kids. Birthday cake and barbecue greeted friends stopping by throughout the day.

As day turned to night, the party became more exuberant, with drinking and karaoke. To neighbor Raul Rodriguez, a former firefighter, the party became a nuisance, and he called the police several times. The police responded to his calls but never asked the Danahers to end the party.

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This angered Rodriguez, according to neighbor Pete Fornols, who visited with him that evening. Another neighbor, Terri Hackathorn, said she sensed trouble when she saw Rodriguez walking down the street toward the party.

Armed with a video camera, a gun and his cellphone, Raul Rodriguez made his way to the Danahers' driveway and began recording the party.

Mindy Danaher's father, James Storm, approached, and they exchanged heated words, all captured on video. Hearing the argument, Kelly Danaher approached the two men. Rodriguez pulled his gun, telling Kelly, "Stop right there. Don't come any closer."

Danaher said Rodriguez didn't need to pull a weapon. Rodriguez threatened to shoot Danaher. At this point, Rodriguez said very clearly into his video camera, "I'm in fear for my life; my life is in danger."

Multiple 911 calls were made. Rodriguez was asked to leave, and he refused.

Then came a sequence of events, over a split second, that would shake Huffman, Texas to its core.

Kelly Danaher's friend Ricky Johnson made a series of movements including waving his arms and laughing. Later his friends said he was stupid not to take Rodriguez seriously.

Rodriguez later claimed Johnson was lunging at him. Still holding his camera and gun, Rodriguez said, "I'm not losing to these people anymore." Then he shot Ricky Johnson, Kelly Danaher and Marshall Stetson.

When it was all over, Kelly Danaher lay bleeding to death at the end of his driveway, steps from his wife and his daughter's birthday party.

Raul Rodriguez was arrested. He would tell police he was confident he had a compelling defense, believing he acted within his rights under the Texas Stand Your Ground law. The law states that a person may use force -- in certain circumstances, deadly force -- in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat. All but seven states have some version of the law, including Florida, where the Trayvon Martin case happened.

George Zimmerman allegedly shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17, on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty and has requested a hearing under the provisions of Florida's Stand Your Ground law.