JUPITER, Fla. — He was the sole survivor of a shootout at his Jupiter home two years and on Monday Charles Vorpagel testified about what happened that night. Christopher Vasata is on trial for the murder of three of Vorpagel’s friends.
In handcuffs and chains, Vorpagel who is serving an 8-year federal sentence for trafficking guns and possessing guns as a convicted felon was called to the stand.
Vorpagel told jurors he and his friends Sean Henry, Brandi El-Salhy, and Kelli Doherty had plans to hang out at his home on Mohawk Street in Jupiter.
“We made some drinks, we snorted a few lines of coke, started smoking a joint and we went out back to sit down by the fire,” said Vorpagel.
Defense attorneys showed jurors pictures last week of what looked like an arsenal of guns at Vorpagel’s home and several types of drugs.
Vorpagel said once he and his friends were sitting around the fire pit, he lit a cigarette and doesn’t remember finishing it before shots rang out in his backyard.
“I heard what sounded like a chain of firecrackers that went off and I looked up and saw several gun flashes coming from this part of my yard and quickly moving across,” said Vorpagel.
He said he fell out of his chair and started running toward the alleyway in his yard that led to the front of the home. He told jurors he jumped over an air conditioning unit, landed in a pile of brush in his yard, then climbed a fence before eventually making it to his neighbor’s house and pulling open the front door.
Vorpagel said he told his neighbor to call 911 and tried to tell him that his friends were shot but was having a panic attack and the words would not come out. His neighbor told him to go out and hide and locked the door behind him.
Vorpagel said he hid behind trash cans, then went back around to his neighbor’s driveway and hid behind a truck and that’s when he believed he saw the shooters.
“It looked like one had his arm around the other’s waist and was helping him to the car,” said Vorpagel.
He told jurors that the shooters were dressed in dark clothes and had their faces covered.
Jurors learned Vasata was also shot that night. Vorpagel testified that he and Vasata knew each other because they both sold drugs and guns. He said Vasata was not a guest at his house the night of the shooting but did come by the night before.
“He came by the house the night before to look at a couple of firearms he wanted to buy,” said Vorpagel.
Vorpagel also said that night Henry talked to Vasata about a rival he wanted to retaliate against. A rival that turned out to be a really good friend of Vasata’s.
“The night before the shooting at my house, Chris Vasata came over and him and Sean had a discussion about Luke robbing his friend’s house and how to get to Luke and get back at him for what he did,” said Vorpagel.
Vorpagel said he believed that Vasata was only pretending to be Luke’s friend. Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey questioned Vorpagel about a statement he made to police a few days after the shooting.
“You told them that Sean had asked Chris if he could murder, or have Luke murdered, and wanted Chris to give him the okay,” said Ramsey.
“That’s correct,” answered Vorpagel.
“You went on in that statement to say that Sean’s word holds weight in this town to where you know if he says he’s going to do something or he wants something done, it happens, so I believe Chris was afraid,” said Ramsey.
“Right,” answered Vorpagel.
Prosecutors are expected to call on the case lead detective Tuesday and rest. Then the defense team will begin to call its witnesses. The judge told jurors he believes attorneys will be giving their closing arguments on Thursday.