United Press International – February 14, 1981
BUFFALO, N.Y. – A jury is expected to begin deliberating a manslaughter charge next week against a 210-pound man who claims he accidentally shot and killed a midget wrestler because he was afraid the 80-pound victim would kill him.
Testimony in the Erie County Court trial of Noe Diaz Rodriguez ended Friday, with the 6-foot-1 Rodriguez telling the jury he was waving a .38 caliber revolver at 4-foot Juan “Chico” Morales when the gun accidentally fired.
Rodriguez, 26, former owner of the Puerto Rican Athletic Club, testified that he feared the 45-year-old Morales – who he alleged had a reputation of “abusing people” – was going to climb over the club’s bar and kill him.
Rodriguez said he had acquired the weapon only hours before the Sept. 7, 1980 killing, and did not know how it went off.
Rodriguez also claimed Morales – once a participant in midget wrestling matches – had stabbed a man in the Hudson Street club two weeks before the shooting, and had been thrown out of the club the day he was killed for exposing himself to customers.
The defendant testified that he drank 36 7-ounce bottles of beer and eight mixed drinks during the 10 hours before the shooting.
Police said Rodriguez fled the shooting scene and was later arrested in Atlanta, where authorities intercepted him on a flight to Puerto Rico.
Rodriguez originally was charged with murder in the case.
Prosecutor Paul McCarthy said about two dozen people were in the club when the shooting occurred, but no one has admitted seeing it.