WATERLOO — A Waterloo man admitted he threw the initial punch in a fight outside a downtown bar in November 2020.
“I swung first,” Joseph Ayala told jurors.
But Ayala, 41, said he was on the ground and getting pummeled when another person began shooting him.
Prosecutors said Will Earnest Young Jr. opened fire on Ayala as Young’s brother, Willis Brown, was punching him.
Young, 31, of Cedar Falls, is charged with willful injury causing serious injury and intimidation with a weapon in the Nov. 8, 2020, fight outside The Saloon on West Fourth Street.
Young’s attorney said he acted in self-defense.
Ayala, a former amateur mixed martial arts fighter who runs his own painting company, took the stand Wednesday during the second day of testimony in Young’s trial.
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During cross-examination, defense attorney Maurice Spencer questioned Ayala about his 11-4 fight record, reading off a list of knockouts, arm bars and decisions where referees stepped in to end the matches.
Ayala said he quit his fighting career about eight years before the shooting.
According to testimony, Ayala and a friend had been drinking in The Saloon when Young’s brother became upset with something Ayala said.
The bartender said she kicked them out of the bar, fearing trouble ahead.
Ayala said as he exited, two people – identified as Young and Brown – exchanged words with him. He walked up to them, and he said he felt they were getting aggressive and about to jump him.
“I felt like I was in danger, so I swung,” Ayala said.
After Ayala hit Young in the face, Brown engaged Ayala, taking him to the ground and hitting him. The bullets fired by Young hit Ayala’s thigh and hip.
He said the rounds struck an artery, requiring surgery. He was in the hospital for almost two weeks and couldn’t walk for a month. To this day, he still notices pains in his leg on a weekly basis, he said.
Jurors also watched videos from Fourth Street businesses showing a brief scuffle around 1:38 a.m.
Waterloo Police Detective Kyle Jurgensen estimated Ayala was about 8 to 10 feet away from Young and tangled up with Brown when the shots were fired. There were also people across the street, downrange.
The officer characterized the shooting as “very reckless.”
He also noted that neither Young nor Brown called 911 or tried to make contact with police following the shooting. They left the area and it was up to police to piece together who was involved by tracing a vehicle leaving the area to the Young’s home.
Young had a laceration above his eye from the fight, and no injuries were observed on Brown, Jurgensen said.
Police also admitted Ayala hadn’t been charged for punching Young because of the seriousness of his injuries.
Testimony in the case will continue on Thursday.
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