Iowa City apartment manager testifies former tenant was going to kill him

An apartment manager testified Monday a former tenant, Gregory Phillips, came into his office Sept. 4, 2008 and stuck a gun up to his mouth, pressing it against his lips and teeth, and said he was going to kill him.

Mezher Beig, manager of Dolphin Lake Enclave apartments in Iowa City, said he thought about his family in that moment and when he heard a click of the trigger he thought he was dead.

Victoria Cole, Phillips attorney, said in her opening statement that Phillips didn’t intend to shoot or kill Beig. He was upset over being relocated from his home after many, many years. There was no round in the chamber and the gun didn’t malfunction. Phillips is a veteran and is experienced with guns.

Phillips, 58, of Iowa City, is charged with attempted murder and going armed with intent. He is accused of threatening Beig with the handgun because he was upset over having to move into another apartment while his apartment and other apartments were renovated.

The trial continues 9 a.m. Tuesday in Johnson County District Court.

Beig said Phillips and the other tenants had been notified a few weeks or so before about their temporary relocation. Management gave the tenants the option of moving into other apartments in the complex or moving out without penalty for breaking their lease.

Beig said he talked to Phillips about moving two times before this incident. Phillips asked if he had to move but didn’t seem upset.

The second time Beig talked to Phillips about it was about an hour or so before the gun incident on Sept. 4, 2008, Beig said. Phillips told him he could move the next day.

Later about 6 p.m. that day, Beig was in his office by himself checking his email and talking on the phone when he heard the outer door open. He hollered out that the office was closed and continued to talk on the phone. Phillips then came through his office door and when he saw the gun in Phillips’ hand he told his friend on the phone “He has a gun.”

Phillips then came over to him, leaned across the desk and put the gun up to his lips, Beig said.

“He said ‘I came here to kill you. You want to move me I’m going to move you out.’”

At this point, Beig became upset while testifying and knocked over a pitcher of water. He then composed himself and said he thought he was going to die when he heard the click of the trigger.

He then realized the gun didn’t fire and Phillips looked like he was checking the slide and trying to reload or fix the gun. Beig grabbed the gun and tried to hold it away from him. He and Phillips struggled with the gun while Beig tried to make his way out of the office outside.

“I was just trying to survive,” Beig said. “I was trying to move outside, so someone would see us.”

They both got outside when Beig heard some voices nearby and tried to get their attention. There were two woman passing by but they couldn’t see Beig and Phillips immediately because the mailboxes blocked their view.

Beig said he finally got the gun away from Phillips and then fell to the ground. Phillips then walked away.

Police arrived and told Beig, who was still holding the gun, to drop it.

Phillips was found a few hours later by police downtown at a bus stop.

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