Michael Vilkin worried that the .22 caliber pistol he bought wasn’t big enough to “stop a big guy.”
So he bought himself a .44.
"How come he did not fall immediate?” shooter Michael Vilkin reportedly asked deputies. He wanted to know why his neighbor did not drop after the first large-caliber bullet hit him.
According to an investigator, Vilkin, who stands accused of killing his neighbor with two shots from his .44 caliber revolver, spoke freely with officers the same day as the shooting, March 28, 2013.
It was Vilkin who dialed 911 to report that he had fired upon his neighbor twice. “Vilkin told the dispatcher that his neighbor (later identified as John Upton) had assaulted him, and Vilkin shot Upton with his gun,” wrote district attorney investigator Trudianne Bullard in her statement dated April 13, 2013.
On a Thursday morning at about 9 a.m., San Diego County sheriff’s deputies responded to 2902 Lone Jack Road in Encinitas and found a man lying on the ground. John Charles Upton, Jr., 56, was declared “deceased at the scene” by a paramedic.
A dispute with a neighbor over trimming bushes along the easement to Vilkin’s vacant Encinitas property precipitated the shooting.
Vilkin, 61, claimed “the guy was bullying me all the time.... He continued to walk through my property, he never missed an opportunity to, you know, not every day, but time-to-time to, you know, how to say it, to verbally assault me.”
Vilkin said he had come to cut bushes on a path that led to his two-and-a-half acre property on Lone Jack Road. But Upton, who lived with his girlfriend and her son in rented a home on an adjacent property, resisted Vilkin’s trimming efforts.
“He wanted my road to serve as his private garden,” Vilkin told authorities. “I decided to go there and cut the trees and to show who’s the boss.”
The man from the Soviet Union
Vilkin is five-feet-five-inches tall and 165 pounds, according to sheriff’s records. John Charles Upton was six-feet-two-inches tall and 236 pounds at the time of his death.
Vilkin told deputies he came to the U.S. in 1987 from the Soviet Union, where he served in the Soviet Army and did some boxing, too. In 2008 he bought the empty lot in Encinitas. At the time of the fatal confrontation, Vilkin and his wife Tamara lived in an apartment in Encinitas about three miles away.
Deputies recorded an interview with Vilkin the same day as the shooting. “In a sheriff’s interview Vilkin said it had been over forty years since he had been in the (Soviet) military and he might not be able to hit the head on the first time,” Bullard reported.
Vilkin reportedly told officers that he went on the internet to research his gun options.
A more powerful gun
A .22 caliber pistol was purchased by Vilkin on August 17, 2012, according to investigators. It was a Euro American Armory pistol. But Vilkin decided that a .22 caliber would not “stop a big guy” and that “he needed a more powerful gun,” according to the investigator’s statement.
“Vilkin searched the internet and read reviews because he was not sure if he should buy a pistol or a revolver,” the investigator stated. “Vilkin said some people said that pistols sometimes jam so he decided to buy a revolver. Vilkin said he bought the simple one with the single action.”
Three months after he bought the .22 caliber pistol, on November 23, 2012, Vilkin acquired a Sturm Ruger .44 caliber revolver. And Vilkin bought the larger magnum ammunition.
After the shooting, Vilkin reportedly asked deputies, “It says bear and .44 magnum and something else, so it’s for a bear, how come he did not, he did not fall immediate? Did he have a vest?”
A black .44 caliber Sturm Ruger revolver was recovered at the scene of the shooting.
Hiding in the bushes with a .44
“Vilkin told the detectives he had been verbally assaulted by Upton over the course of the last year because Vilkin wanted to cut trees and bushes on the easement portion of his property and Upton was concerned about his privacy,” according to investigator Bullard.
“Vilkin hired two workers to cut the bushes and while they were working, Vilkin was ‘hiding’ on his property so he could see the workers and Upton’s front door. When Vilkin saw Upton looking out the front door Vilkin took the revolver out of the case and put it in his waist band. Vilkin said, ‘He came out and he went around and started walking to me. When he was about ten feet he told me you know, I don’t remember those expletives, I was under stress, but it was fucking fucking fucking when he was approaching. I watching his hands. He pulled a pistol, and I pulled [my gun.] I shot the way I was trained in the army.’
“Vilkin believed he shot Upton once in the lower torso and then again in the head in self defense,” Bullard wrote.
“Vilkin claimed Upton pulled a gun out of his waistband during the verbal confrontation.” But investigators found “Upton only had a cell phone on his person,” Bullard wrote.
Upton’s girlfriend, Evelyn Zeller, was in the rented home and came outside when she heard shots. She told investigators that when she approached her boyfriend lying on the ground, Vilkin pointed a gun at her and warned her not to come any closer.
Vilkin is charged with premeditated murder of Upton and assault with a deadly weapon on Zeller. Vilkin pleaded not guilty through his public defender. He is next due in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse on August 26.