Accused killer Orlando Ortiz testified Monday that he fired a revolver into a car behind a Valley Stream restaurant because the man behind the wheel pointed a gun in his face and threatened to kill him.
"I just pulled my gun off my hip . . . I just squeezed the trigger as fast as possible," said Ortiz, 32, describing his actions as self-defense during a cross-examination in a Mineola courtroom.
Prosecutors allege the Valley Stream man fired nine bullets into the head of Richard Baccus, 50, of Rosedale, Queens, because he was angry after an argument spilled out of a West Merrick Road business where the two neighborhood acquaintances had been drinking.
The Nassau district attorney's office has said no gun was found with Baccus' bullet-riddled body inside a black BMW behind Ay! Caramba restaurant and that Baccus wasn't armed with a gun during the Dec. 23, 2013, shooting.
The defense team's theory appears to be that Ortiz mistook a flashlight police found in the BMW for a gun, before opening fire to allegedly protect himself against Baccus' threat.
Ortiz also said when he fired shots, he believed Baccus already had done the same.
"I returned fire," he said, adding later: "I checked to make sure I wasn't hit."
Ortiz said Baccus had showed him a badge inside the restaurant, telling him he was a U.S. marshal and that carrying a gun was part of his duty.
Ortiz also told Assistant District Attorney Brian Lee that some of Baccus' claims were "credible," but agreed some seemed "incredible."
Baccus claimed he was assigned to a post at the restaurant because it had been burglarized, but also had been in "takedowns" where he handled five to six armed men by himself, Ortiz testified.
Authorities have said police found fake bounty hunter credentials with the body of Baccus, whose wife testified he had run a car-painting business. She said she'd seen the badge in their home.
Wearing a white shirt and tan pants, Ortiz seemed confident and verbally sparred with the prosecutor from time to time as Lee peppered him with questions.
"That is incorrect," he said when Lee asked if he had left the business to get his gun because he had been disrespected.
But Lee also elicited testimony showing Ortiz had dressed as a bounty hunter for Halloween in 2011. Ortiz called the fake badge he had worn then a "prop," but agreed it had similarities to a photo shown in court of Baccus' fake ID.
Ortiz -- who faces up to 25 years to life in prison if found guilty of second-degree murder -- also painted Baccus as an instigator, calling himself someone who "tried to pursue a path of peace" that night.
"If I could go back in time, I wouldn't even be there," he said.