A new dad was fatally shot “point-blank” in a Pennsylvania parking lot Saturday morning after confronting a man who’d spewed racial slurs at his friend inside a bar, police said.
James Saylor has been charged with criminal homicide for allegedly killing Chad Merrill, 25, outside of the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge in York County.
“All my brother was doing was sticking up for someone. He was shot point blank,” Richard Merrill, Chad’s devastated brother, told the York Daily Record.
The 24-year-old suspect “never once acted like he knew what he did,” Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock told the Daily Record. Saylor was denied bail at his arraignment Saturday night.
Shortly before the shooting, the owners of Red Rose had kicked Saylor out of their bar after he allegedly called Chad Merrill’s pal, Jerrell Douglas, the n-word, according to the newspaper. Merrill told Douglas to ignore the racial slurs Saylor was hurling at him, The Washington Post reported.
Surveillance footage shows Saylor firing rounds from a .45 caliber handgun in the bar’s parking lot after he was kicked out, according to a probable cause affidavit.
When Merrill left the bar and approached Saylor’s pick-up truck, Saylor allegedly shot him in the chest, Pollock told the Daily Record.
“Maybe he was trying to right the wrong,” Pollock said. “This is unusual. In the 16 or 17 years I've been here, there hasn’t been a homicide. It doesn’t happen here.”
It is not clear what words, if any, were exchanged between Merrill and Saylor in the final moments of the young father’s life. Police said the victim and the alleged assailant didn’t know each other, but Jessica Godden, the mother of Merrill’s 5-month-old baby, told the York Daily Record that the two went to high school together.
Saylor fled the scene as Merrill bled to death in the parking lot, hitting an Uber on the way out, according to the Post. The victim died at 1:50 a.m. Saturday morning in a local hospital, according to the affidavit.
Law enforcement tracked down Saylor by looking for a truck with a dented front bumper, court records state. They found the vehicle parked at Saylor’s parents’ home, where the suspect lives in the basement, the Post reported.
Merrill worked as a contractor and loved playing basketball in his free time, according to the Daily Record.
“He was a great father. He put his heart and soul into his son,” his brother told the newspaper. “He was a very caring guy, a very nice person always there to help somebody out.”
He was “always the peacemaker,” Richard Merrill added.
“He didn’t want people hating each other,” he told the Post, “or the world being segregated the way it is, with the racism you see all over the news.”