Suspect tells judge gun went off as he tried to hit Columbus shooting victim

A tearful Michael David Thomas testified today that he did not mean to shoot Walter Exantus in the chest at Columbus mobile home park Saturday, but the gun went off when he tried to hit Exantus with it.

Thomas, 20, faced charges of aggravated assault, armed robbery and using a firearm to commit a crime. Recorder's Court Judge Michael Cielinski ordered him held without bond and sent the case to Superior Court after a preliminary hearing this morning.

Detectives said witnesses told them Thomas was the victim of a planned robbery. His 2006 Chevrolet Malibu was taken after he was shot. Exantus, 20, was in unsatisfactory condition today at The Medical Center, they said.

Investigators said police first were called at 2:41 a.m. to the trailer park at 3110 Plateau Drive, where witnesses were able to give a suspect's first name and a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard address. Officers found that to be the home of Thomas' grandmother, who gave them his full name. With that detectives retrieved a mugshot from Thomas' prior arrest and show it to witnesses who said he was the shooter, officers said.

They said Thomas later called police from his grandmother's house and reported he had witnessed the incident. Detectives took him to police headquarters and arrested him after he admitted he was involved, they said.

In court this morning, Thomas began to weep as he told Cielinski that he pulled out his gun after Exantus took a swing at him, and he was trying to hit Exantus with the weapon when it fired.