It started out as a morning many have had.
Robert Grott headed to a Tacoma Fred Meyer store to pay a utility bill.
Nearby, Julian “Jay” Thomas met up with a friend at a gas station, and talked about Thomas’ newborn son, whom he expected home from the hospital that day.
But the afternoon of Feb. 1, 2016, took a horrific turn when Grott, 31, and Thomas, 23, crossed paths at the Arco station at 3601 Center St.
Witnesses described in Pierce County Superior Court on Monday and Tuesday how Grott allegedly killed Thomas by shooting at the car he was in outside the gas station, and continued shooting as he advanced.
Prosecutors say Grott fired 48 times out of anger and revenge, reloading as he went through multiple clips.
Grott’s attorney argues Grott thought Thomas had reached for a gun and fired to protect himself, in line with his training as a former Marine. Grott believed Thomas had taken his gun months earlier, and believed Thomas had fired into his house as the dispute escalated, according to court records.
Grott is on trial for first-degree murder for Thomas’ death, and for seven counts of first-degree assault for other people prosecutors said were in danger of being hit.
One witness who took the stand was Petra Smith, the friend Thomas was talking to before the shooting.
As she answered questions from Deputy Prosecutor Jesse Williams, Smith described how she and Thomas had shared a marijuana blunt outside the store and talked about their children.
Thomas told her he was going to head back to the hospital, and she hugged him goodbye.
Then the shooting started.
Thomas pulled Smith down with him, and they both laid flat across the front seats of Thomas’ car for cover.
“He said it was probably a drive-by and it would end,” Smith said.
But it didn’t, and she moved to take cover under a different vehicle nearby.
She heard someone say: “You are not going to get away with shooting at my house,” though she didn’t know what it meant.
“It kept going and it felt like forever,” she said, adding she heard the shooter insert a fresh magazine at some point.
When the bullets did stop, the gunman left.
“He just walked away,” she told the attorneys, punctuating the last three words.
Smith said she didn’t know the shooter, or his relationship with Thomas.
Defense attorney Michael Frans asked if she’d initially thought the shooter was her daughter’s father, who she’d had a dispute with earlier that day.
She said no, and Frans pointed out that contradicted what she first told investigators. Smith countered she hadn’t been sure, and said what Frans cited wasn’t her full statement.
The dispute with her child’s father, she noted, was the reason she had met Thomas at the Arco, instead of at home.
“I thought it was a safe place,” she said.
Attorneys also questioned John Oliver, who had finished getting gas at pump 4 and was about to leave the parking lot when the shooting started.
“He just kept firing and firing at the car,” said Oliver, who backed up his vehicle to avoid the bullets. “ ... It just kept going until he was out (of bullets).”
He said the shooter reloaded multiples times, and that “when he loaded the second clip, he looked right at me.”
But the shooter didn’t seem to care about bystanders, Oliver said.
“He was after whoever was in that car,” he testified.
The gunfire lasted about four minutes, Oliver thought, then admitted it might have seemed longer than it actually was.
Afterward, Oliver testified, the shooter walked to a spot nearby, where he “picked up a skateboard and left.”
Oliver told the attorneys he was the first one to get to Thomas’ car after the shooting, and that when he opened the driver’s door he saw a man slumped over, with bullet wounds to his head and his arm.
“There was no movement, no breathing,” he said.
Joseph Gulliford had been getting gas at pump 8, he told the lawyers.
His fiance was inside the AM-PM store at the gas station, he said, and some bullets shattered the building’s glass.
When he heard the first pause in the gunfire, “That’s when I thought the shooter had left,” Gulliford said.
But he hadn’t and, as the shots continued, Gulliford said, he saw the shooter standing by Thomas’ car. Then he could make out something falling in the front seat.
Frans pointed out that Gulliford hadn’t told investigators that detail initially.
No, Gulliford agreed.
It was clear by then where the body was, he said.
Where Thomas’ day, and his life, came to an end.