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Man says he fired in self defense in fight over trees

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - An Encinitas man accused of gunning down his neighbor following a months-long dispute over trees says he fired in self defense.

Michael Vilkin remains behind bars Saturday in the death of documentary filmmaker John Upton.

The victim's brother says he will be at the suspect's arraignment to see the "animal" that gunned down his sibling.

News 8 conducted a jailhouse interview with Michael Vilkin, who says he feared he would be assaulted by his neighbor during a long-standing feud.

"I did not go to him. I did not threaten him. He came all the way to me," said Vilkin. "The guy pulled a gun on me and I shot him."

Accused murder suspect Michael Vilkin says he gunned down his neighbor John Upton Thursday morning in self defense, although authorities have not said if the 56-year-old victim had weapon on him.

"I have to defend myself. It's not about guilty or not guilty..moral or not moral..I have to do what I had to do. I had no choice," he said.

It appears a year long dispute over trees may have led to the killing, which has shattered the Olivenhain community.

"Why he was such a bully that he did not allow me to do work on my property for the last year," said Vilkin.

The 61-year-old claims his neighbor approached him and was cursing, when Vilkin says he saw Upton reach for what he says was a black pistol.

"I shot him in the stomach and he kept walking to me," said Vilkin. "He was walking toward me..more steps and I cocked again and shot him in the head."

John Upton's sibling Michael doesn't buy Vilkin's self defense plea and says his brother wasn't violent.

"I think his full intent was to confront my brother and kill him," said Upton. "My brother was not a confrontation artist. He has no history of doing anything like that."

Michael Upton calls his brother's alleged killer a despicable man.

"He's ruined the lives of a lot of people. His own life. I hope he pays for it," he said.

In an exclusive News 8 interview, Tamara Vilkin says her husband of 30 years is a nice man who was just trying to protect himself.

Sheriff's Department records show they responded a week ago to restore peace between Vilkin and Upton.

Vilkin claims Upton argued with deputies to stop him from trimming the trees, but authorities told Upton that Vilkin had the right to cut them down because they were on his property.

Michael Vilkin is being held without bail at the Vista Detention Center. He's set to be arraigned next Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in Vista Superior Court.

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