Charlie Brooks Jr., the Texas convict who last month became the first man in U.S. history to be executed by lethal injection, admitted shortly before he died that he was the triggerman in the killing of David Gregory in 1976, according to an article in the February issue of Texas Monthly magazine.

The question of who actually shot Gregory, a Fort Worth auto mechanic, was a central issue in the legal fight that preceded the Dec. 7 execution. Brooks' lawyers attempted to delay the execution in part on the grounds that the identity of the triggerman in the murder remained a mystery.

But in a series of taped interviews with Dick J. Reavis, an associate editor of Texas Monthly, Brooks acknowledged pulling the trigger, although he maintained that it was not intentional, and that he was on drugs at the time of murder.

"It was very clear to me that he was admitting guilt," Reavis said today.

Brooks and his accomplice, Woody Loudres, were convicted in separate trials and condemned to die for the 1976 killing. Loudres' conviction was later overturned, and last fall he received a 40-year sentence under a plea-bargaining arrangement.

Reavis wrote that Brooks first said the gun that killed Gregory had gone off accidentally.

But Reavis challenged that account by saying that a revolver, which killed Gregory, rarely discharges accidentally.

Brooks was seen with a long-barreled revolver moments before Gregory was killed.

"In order for a revolver to discharge, you have to either cock the hammer or either pull the trigger," Reavis said Brooks told him. "What I'm saying is that okay, like, if you've got the hammer cocked, okay, it can be an accident when you twitch that finger."

Reavis then wrote: "Charlie Brooks, who told the courts that he was innocent, plain and simple, wanted me to know that he had put a gun to the face of David Gregory, the face of a husband and a father, that he had cocked the hammer, and that he had pulled the trigger--but didn't mean to kill."