As the gunman accused of murdering four people in Darwin allegedly fired his first shot into room 15 at the Palms Motel, Cameron Ehling took his frightened girlfriend in his arms.
The bald, “mean”-looking man had already tried to kick open the door to their room, Mr Ehling told Benjamin Glenn Hoffmann’s murder trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court on Thursday.
Now he was trying to blast his way in.
Shotgun pellets hit the walls as the pair hid on the floor behind their bed.
“We laid there terrified, listening to the screaming and the yelling and then a second shot was let off through the door,” he said, recounting the events of the afternoon of June 4, 2019.
“I could hear the acoustics and the echoing from the gun shot reverberate around the room.
“I could smell the gunpowder.”
A third gun shot blew the knob off the door.
“My partner screamed at the same time. I thought she was just scared because we were being shot at,” Mr Ehling said.
She wasn’t. Damita Jerome had been shot three times in the legs as Mr Ehling lay on top of her using his body as a “human shield”.
Seconds later, a fourth shot tore through the door and Hoffmann forced his way into the room, Mr Ehling said.
He pushed Ms Jerome deeper into the space the pair had been hiding in and knelt with his hands raised above his head.
“(The gunman) was standing about four feet away from me. He had the shotgun pointed at my chest,” he said.
“He slowly raised it a little bit higher. I couldn’t tell you if it was at my face or if it was at my neck.”
Mr Ehling said he told the man his name and that he hadn’t “wronged anybody” and didn’t owe anybody money.
“After I’d said that … we looked in each other’s eyes from eye to eye for what felt like an eternity. And he just simply said to me, ‘You’re f—ing lucky then’ before walking off.”
Mr Ehling looked around the room toward Ms Jerome.
The mattress was torn and its filling was exposed. He could also see rips in the doona Ms Jerome was hiding under.
“I braced myself for the worst and I pulled it off and the moment I did I could see holes just trickling blood on her shins and on her knees,” he said
Minutes earlier Hoffmann had allegedly killed his first victim, Hassan Baydoun, 33, in the caretaker’s quarters at the motel.
Mark MacKenzie searched the room after seeing the gunman leave and found the dead man lying in a shower.
“He was holding a heavy frypan but it was resting on his lap by that stage,” he said.
“I called the police from that room while I was actually looking at him.”
The court has heard Hoffmann was high on drugs at the time and searching for a woman he believed was his girlfriend, Kelly Collins.
He was also trying to find a man who’s been described in court as a “pimp” and “drug dealer” named Alex Deligiannis, with whom Ms Collins has been linked.
From his balcony, Joseph Puntoriero later spotted Mr Elhing carrying an injured Ms Jerome down the street away from the motel.
She was later rushed to hospital, where a surgeon removed three pellets.
Hoffmann, 47, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to four counts of murder and 10 other serious charges, including threatening to kill and recklessly endangering the lives of other people he came across during the afternoon of June 4.
Nigel Hellings, 75, Michael Sisois, 57, and Rob Courtney, 52, were the other men who died.
The trial continues.