CROWN POINT, Ind. (STMW) — A former Cook County correctional officer on trial for murder in a road-rage shooting in Hammond, Ind., told police he thought the other driver was reaching for a gun.

Edgar Novera Singleton Jr., 61, of Chicago, had a right to protect himself if he perceived he was in imminent danger, defense attorney Philip King told the jury of eight women and four men Tuesday in his opening statement before Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vasquez.

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King said his client told police: “He was reaching for a gun. I shot.”

Singleton, who has grown a full, white beard since he has been in custody in the Lake County, Ind., Jail, has pleaded not guilty to murder in the Aug. 8 shooting of Montrell Moss, 23, of East Chicago, Ind..

In his opening statement, deputy prosecutor Michael Woods said Moss and his girlfriend had run some errands, stopped at Burger King, and had planned to visit a friend in Chicago when they encountered Singleton as he drove his gold minivan north on Indianapolis Boulevard. Evidence would show the van cut off Moss twice before pulling up next to him on the left, Woods said.

“Montrell Moss was aggravated,” Woods said, and made a poor decision to express his anger by throwing a Burger King cup at the van and calling the driver, Singleton, a “bitch.”

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Moss pulled away, about three cars ahead of the minivan, then stopped at the stoplight at Casino Center Drive, Woods said. Singleton pulled into the left lane next to Moss’ car, responded with “bitch,” and shot Moss, whose car veered into the nearby Luke gas station at 1051 Indianapolis Blvd., and hit a gas pump.

Hammond police Cpl. David Arrigo, the first officer on the scene, testified he saw a woman applying pressure to Moss’ neck. Moss’ girlfriend was inside the car, crying. Arrigo said he got the girlfriend out of the car and was trying to get a description of the other vehicle involved in the incident when she spotted it driving by. Another officer who arrived followed the van, which drove south, turned around and pulled up behind Arrigo’s squad car.

“I’m a deputy sheriff,” Singleton told Arrigo.

Arrigo said Moss’ girlfriend was standing by the passenger side car Moss was driving for about 30 seconds while he checked Singleton for weapons and then secured Moss’ car. Arrigo said he looked inside the car and didn’t see a gun.

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