Paso Robles man tells jury he shoots to kill

September 18, 2015
John Steven Danner

John Steven Danner

A Paso Robles man took the stand in his own murder trial Thursday, and he testified that his father taught him to shoot to kill when attacked. [Tribune]

John Steven Danner, 25, is accused of murdering Billy Don Law, 47. Law was the boyfriend of Danner’s mother, and all three lived in the same home.

On Feb. 7, 2014, Danner allegedly shot Law 13 times. Danner claims he was acting in self defense against a man who had abused him in the past.

Danner said he pulled a handgun to warn Law to end a loud argument with his mother. Law then charged at him, Danner said.

A few weeks prior to the shooting, Law knocked out one of Danner’s teeth when he sucker-punched him while Danner was sitting on a couch.

During his testimony Thursday, Danner said his father instructed him to shoot to kill in life-threatening situations, Danner said. He told me to shoot all the bullets in the gun at an attacker, Danner testified.

Danner said, upon moving into Law’s rural Paso Robles property, he got along well with Law for a year. But the situation became tense after the electricity was shut off.

Danner also described the drug use in the household. He said he began using methamphetamine around the time he moved in with Law, and they would use drugs together.

Danner’s attorney, David Vogel, has argued Law is a drug user who would make threats and have violent outbursts.

Prosecutors have argued the shooting was a premeditated murder.



  1. Scott says:

    His statements about shooting so many bullets is actually what is exactly what is taught still today in ALL Law Enforcement training. Having been in shooting’s both as a Police Officer and in the US Military and other Federal Agencies.

    When you are in fear in your life and or the suspect has the ability to harm, kill or injury you or anyone else you taught to ” SHOOT UNTIL YOU THE SUSPECT IS NO LONGER A THREAT” and or your out of ammunition. That is why many suspects are shot many times.

    I can tell you some people have been shot over 40+ times, many causalities in war on both sides shot until your either dead or incapacitated to the point the suspect can no longer pose a threat.

    One of the suspects i had to shoot so long ago, unknown to me or others was on a drug back then called ” Dust” or “Sherm” aka PCP. Even if this suspect was not on drugs he still would have been shot due to the fear of loosing my life and the other officers who were down and bleeding. So as trained i shot until my weapon was empty and the suspect was either dead or unable to continue the threat.

    He ended up with several of my .357 magnum bullets in his body………Threat is over. Three officers injured. So if this person was in fear and the victim was in fact a threat then the suspect would be fully justified in the use of force. All Law Enforcement are still trained to shoot until dead or threat is stopped which may very well result in the death. FLETC, DEA, ATF, FBI and all LEO’s if trained correctly are trained to shoot until your out of ammo or the threat is gone…now the instructions are told the following. If questioned under oath on the stand in any shooting’s your suppose to say ” I had to shoot until the threat was stopped” rather than shot to kill. Changed the meaning so officers are not charged with a crime so they now say shoot to stop instead in reality shoot to kill.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
    • kettle says:

      Scott “He ended up with several of my .357 magnum bullets in his body…” ” Having been in shooting’s both as a Police Officer and in the US Military and other Federal Agencies.”

      Links to this or we will know it never happened.

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. fishing village says:

    No place else to go? Nothing else to do? how sad is this, a young man bites the dust.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. topper01 says:

    Judge: What did you shoot him 13 times?

    Defendant: Because I dd not have 14 bullets!

    (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
  4. indigo1955 says:

    Okay….this is not going to be popular (but that’s okay). In Forensic Psychology, they gave us some intense stats about men around this age who murder to defend their mother–or murder in a rage after they have spent sometimes years–trying to respect authority–but dealing with the humiliation of being abused. Mom and her flakey boyfriends—is usually such a bad parent–that the kid has never reached milestones in maturity and learning to cope, making good choices, etc. And so: you have this. A life flushed down the toilet.

    (14) 16 Total Votes - 15 up - 1 down
  5. Perspicacious says:

    If you shoot in self defense you better darn well shoot to kill. However, on the stand, you better say “I shot to STOP the threat”.

    (11) 13 Total Votes - 12 up - 1 down
  6. justbeware says:

    No money for electricity but money for meth…
    Life is about choices and priorities.

    (14) 14 Total Votes - 14 up - 0 down
    • indigo1955 says:

      From what I have seen in therapy—there is no choice once meth gets its claws in deep. That is the evil of addiction—you feed the addiction–and not your kids. It can get that bad. Very high risk for suicide when meth users get clean—and the consequences of behaving like they did—truly sink in.

      (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
      • justbeware says:

        There’s always the choice to start or not.

        (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
  7. achillesheal says:

    At some point in time when you are doing meth with your mother’s abusive boyfriend, the electricity in the trailor has been shut off, don’t you ever ask yourself, what have I done with this life I have been given?
    Good advice from Daddy to shoot the attacker 13 times. His wonderful advice guaranteed you a life sentence. I wonder where the father is incarcerated at the moment.

    (5) 19 Total Votes - 12 up - 7 down
    • dogeatdog says:

      Achillesheal, daddy did not tell him to shoot 13 times, he said shoot to kill.

      I was taught by a law enforcement officer to shoot many years ago, and I too was taught to shoot to kill. If you have to pull a gun, you damn well better be fearing for your life. Adrenaline kicks in and things can happen before you know it. I can see unloading a weapon at an assailant, just out of fear.

      How do even you get to the point of thinking the father is incarcerated at the moment?

      Leave the drugs out of the scenario, and his father taught him correctly IMHO.

      The drug thing, bad choice, yet I don’know if he was high the night he shoot Law. Very unfortunate situation, but 25 years old is still pretty damn young and stupid.

      I hope he gets help for the drugs, the jury will get to decide the rest for him.

      (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down

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