By Paul Gackle

OAKLAND – Are Willie “W.L” Thompson and LaVar “Mooney” Coleman murderers who hunted and killed two childhood friends like prey? Or were they acting in self-defense during the bloody four-man shootout that has torn neighbors, family and friends apart? Now, a jury will decide what happened during the early hours of April 25, 2004 in the East Oakland neighborhood know as, “the Village.”

In closing arguments of the double-homicide trial, Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero told jurors that Thompson and Coleman instigated the armed conflict that left Ronnell Hodge and Dante Wallace dead. He was responding to the defense’s claim that the two would have killed in self-defense if Hodges fired his .357 caliber revolver first.

“The law does not permit an act of self defense to be contrived. You cannot create a situation and then say you were acting in self defense,” he said.

Lamiero pointed to testimony that claimed Thompson and Coleman followed Hodges and Wallace up 65th Avenue – armed – and initiated a shouting match.

The 12-member jury was handed the case Tuesday after closing arguments wrapped up in the four-week trial before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Leo Dorado in Oakland.

Lamiero also responded to criticism from the defense that he had relegated two human to animals by using a hunting analogy to describe the murder.

“They say, ‘this is an outrage, he called them animals.’ I didn’t call them animals. They are men,” he said. “Animals are not responsible for what nature dictates them to do. But as men, they are accountable for killing two men.”