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'I'm shooting, and I can't stop': TikTok star accused in double murder takes stand in own defense

Ali Abulaban performed comedy bits on social media to more than a million followers before he was arrested in the case.
Ali Abulaban
Posted at 6:45 PM, May 22, 2024

A once-rising TikTok star accused of gunning down his estranged wife and her friend took the stand in his own defense, breaking down and admitting to assaulting her on multiple occasions.

Ali Abulaban is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ana Abulaban and Rayburn Barron. The two were killed on Oct. 21, 2021, at the San Diego high-rise apartment Ali and Ana had shared, though Ali had moved into a hotel shortly before the murders.

Ali, now 31, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. His defense team says he was experiencing a mental health crisis due to his marriage falling apart, was upset that his wife was seeing someone else and was not thinking rationally.

In a direct examination that spanned two days, Ali spoke about an abusive childhood, his discharge from the military and his relationship with Ana, beginning with their courtship and ending with her brutal murder.

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Ali met Ana while working as a police officer in the Air Force, but was later forced to leave the military after he was accused of assaulting her. The couple had been at a bar near the Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan, where Ana worked part-time. Ali admitted to getting drunk but said that after he was asked to leave the club he slipped and fell, crashing into Ana. Witnesses at the time accused him of hitting Ana.

When asked by his attorney whether he had ever assaulted Ana, Ali declared, "I would never do that in public!" He then clarified, "I don't mean that's something I condone, I just mean [the accusers] did not witness anything." Ali admitted that when he was initially called in and questioned about an off-base assault, he lied and said that he had been at home. Given the choice, Ali chose a voluntary discharge from the Air Force rather than a court martial.

Ali did admit to assaulting Ana on other occasions. After the two were married and had a child, there was friction in their marriage. Ali suspected that his wife had been sending intimate photos and texts to another man. Several days after discovering a conversation on her phone, Ali said the two fought about it and the argument turned physical.

"I snapped," Ali said. "I rolled on top of Ana and I began punching her."

Another incident, recorded by Ali on his phone, was played for the jury and showed an argument between the couple escalating to the point where Ali pushed her. Ana fell, hitting her head on the end of the bed. Ali said that at the time, both of them were under the influence of cocaine and alcohol.

According to prosecutors, Ana had been making plans to take out a restraining order shortly before her death.

In the days and weeks preceding the murder, Ali had become increasingly jealous and paranoid about Ana cheating on him and installed an app on their young daughter’s iPad that allowed him to secretly listen to what was happening in the home.

On the day of the murders, Ali said that he heard his wife and a man’s voice laughing on the app. His response was to do cocaine and head to the apartment, armed with a gun. Driving over to the apartment, Ali testified that he was continuing to use the drug, saying, “It’s probably the most coke I’ve ever done.”

Ali became emotional on the stand, recounting walking into the apartment and discovering that Ana was there with his friend, Rayburn Barron.

"When I saw that it was him, I couldn't take it. I couldn’t take the [expletive] betrayal. I couldn’t believe she could do that to me, to our daughter. And before I could stop myself, I just [expletive] snapped and my gun was in my hand and next thing I’m shooting and I can’t stop. I’m just shooting, I’m shooting. I’m even startled, it’s like I’m watching it happen, like I’m in the passenger seat of my own body."

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While Ali said that he remembered shooting at Barron, he said he couldn't remember shooting Ana. He also denied remembering taking a photo at the scene, saying he was in a fog and didn't know how to "process" what was happening.

Ali faced a contentious cross-examination that had him asking the judge at one point, "What happens when the question is forcing me to say something specific?" as the prosecutor grilled him on the patterns of violence in his relationships.

The judge had to intervene to calm both sides after a particularly tense exchange in which the prosecutor asked about an alleged assault on his mother.

Prosecutor: "Ana saw you slap your mom, right?"

Ali Abalaban: "She did not see that."

Prosecutor: "And I can't ask her right?"

Ali: "That's not fair."

Prosecutor: "Because you killed her?"

Ali: "That's not fair. That's so inappropriate."

In the days leading up to the killings, Ali left Ana a series of disturbing voicemails. In the messages, he bragged about being a "god," an "internet celebrity" and boasted how "sexy" he was.

He could also be heard saying, "I can't wait to divorce you so I can start my new life," and "You're going to watch Netflix and think, 'Oh, isn't that my husband?'"

The Netflix comments stem from the fact that Ali had a huge social media following. Under the handle @JinnKid on TikTok, Instagram and other platforms, he performed comedy bits and often impersonated Al Pacino's character from the movie "Scarface." At the time of his arrest, Ali had amassed over a million followers.

According to prosecutors, the couple had moved to San Diego from Virginia because Ali was trying to connect with talent agents on the West Coast.

Ali granted KSWB a jailhouse interview in Dec. 2021, during which he arguably appeared more upset about not being able to post as @Jinnkid, a hobby he referred to as "my baby," than the loss of his wife.

"I wanted to be an actor, and it was right there! I was right there!" he said. "The weekend before all this happened, I was in LA at The Comedy Store. I was talking to producers. I was about to have a talent agent. It was right there!"

At a preliminary hearing for Ali back in 2022, the defendant had a shocking outburst during which he wailed as autopsy photos were displayed. He loudly interrupted proceedings, shouting things like, "Do you think I wanted this?" and "My whole life is destroyed," as two bailiffs struggled to hold him down.

If convicted, Ali faces life in prison without parole.

This story was originally published by Lauren Silver and Katie McLaughlin on Court TV.