Former cook Xiubin Mei testified late Wednesday that he raised a meat cleaver to his boss during a disagreement at an Elk Grove Village restaurant because he was scared of him and wanted the man to stop punching him.
Mei, 62, testified he acted in self-defense after China Bowl owner Rui Zhong fired him and punched him in the mouth during an argument on Aug. 15, 2011, in the kitchen of the Chinese carryout restaurant.
Prosecutors say Mei attacked Zhong with a meat cleaver after Zhong threatened to fire him for working too slowly. A female co-worker who tried to intervene also was injured.
The Chicago man has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery. If convicted on the more serious charge, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
As the second day of his trial drew to a close, Mei testified he had worked for Zhong between 10 and 11 hours a day, six days a week, for seven years when Zhong accused him of working too slowly and fired him. Zhong denied firing Mei, saying he had only threatened to do so.
Mei said Zhong spoked to him angrily, put his hands on him, ordered him out of the restaurant and then punched him, bloodying his face and loosening several teeth, which Mei said fell out several weeks later.
After the punch, "I picked up anything that was surrounding me to protect myself and stop him from punching me again," said Mei, who said he was trying to scare Zhong.
He stated he didn't see the female co-worker who got between them in an attempt to separate them. She suffered a scalp laceration that required 13 to 15 staples to close. Zhong suffered lacerations to an ear and a finger as well as wounds to his face and neck. Mei said Zhong was injured during their struggle over the knife.
Defense attorney Michael Solock introduced photographs showing Mei with a bloodied face and hands. Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Gerber countered with photographs showing the injuries to the victims.
Gerber challenged Mei's recollection of the behavior of Zhong, who called Mei "Uncle" as a sign of respect and had arranged transportation for Mei to the restaurant from his home in Chicago's Chinatown.
Gerber also asked Mei why he didn't leave the kitchen by the back door if he was so afraid of his boss. Mei replied that Zhong was standing between him and the door.
Closing arguments take place Thursday morning in Rolling Meadows, with jury deliberations to follow.