PHOENIX – An Arizona man on trial for filming his 16-year-old nephew carrying a fake grenade launcher at a busy intersection took the witness stand Friday, saying he never meant to simulate a terrorist attack and acknowledging that his narration in a video of the episode contained false information.
Michael David Turley, 40, told jurors that he didn’t think his actions endangered the life of his nephew, whose body was draped in a sheet and whose head was wrapped in a scarf.
“He was dressed up in a Halloween costume,” the filmmaker explained, adding that the video was meant to be satirical and that most passing motorists laughed at them.
Prosecutors say Turley could have gotten his nephew killed by pointing the fake weapon at passing vehicles during rush-hour traffic. They say some motorists who saw the teen had discussions about whether they should run him over.
Turley is charged with endangerment and engaging in a criminal hoax for the mock terrorism scenario in northwest Phoenix on July 28. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted of both charges, Turley could face probation or more than five years in prison.
In a video that he posted on YouTube, Turley said he wanted to see how long it took authorities to respond to a terrorist situation, and he mentioned a movie theater shooting two weeks earlier that killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo. The teenager carried the fake launcher on his shoulder as he made his way across a crosswalk. The narrator said the teen wanted to appear as intimidating as possible in hopes that people would call police.
The video also showed the first police officer to arrive, who found the 16-year-old standing in his uncle’s driveway. The officer calmly told the teenager to put down the weapon and Turley to put down the camera. The officer didn’t draw his gun.
Turley began his testimony by saying his nephew was like a son to him. “I am kind of his role model, if you will,” Turley said.
In a tense exchange with Turley, prosecutor Michael Anderson underscored that Turley acknowledged many details in the video were false.
“It’s fiction,” Turley responded.
Under questioning by his attorney Brad Rideout, Turley said his intent that day wasn’t to test the emergency response. Turley said making the video was foolish and that he doesn’t feel good that some people said they were frightened.
Police left the day of the incident without making any arrests, But Turley was arrested nearly two months later after police interviewed people who called emergency services and later saw the video posted on YouTube.