A 25-year-old Pennsylvania man was shot and killed Saturday by a fellow bar patron who had berated his friend using racial epithets, police say.
James Saylor, 24, fatally shot Chad Merrill, the father of a four-month-old baby boy, around 1 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot of Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge in Hellam Township, according to the York County Sheriff’s Office.
The confrontation began inside the bar, where authorities say Saylor hurled racial slurs at Merrill’s friend, Jerrell Douglas, who is black. The bar’s owners ultimately removed Saylor from the premises, according to police.
Surveillance video shows Saylor getting into his pickup truck and firing a shot at the building. Merrill apparently walked outside toward Saylor, who then shot Merrill in the chest, police said. Neither the video nor witnesses suggested Merrill had shown any hostility toward Saylor, The Associated Press reported.
Merrill died at a local hospital an hour after the shooting, authorities said. Saylor was arrested Saturday and charged with one count of criminal homicide. He was denied bail, according to The Washington Post.
“Maybe [Merrill] was trying to right the wrong,” Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock told the York Daily Record. “This is unusual. In the 16 or 17 years I’ve been here, there hasn’t been a homicide. It doesn’t happen here.”
Merrill’s mother, Pearl Awise, told the Daily Record that her son went to high school with Saylor. The extent of their relationship was not immediately clear.
A GoFundMe page created to raise money for Merrill’s funeral expenses describes him as “a new father to his adorable son Layton, a great son, brother, friend and person to all of those around him.”
“Every family has that one member who is a beacon of light and shines a little brighter [than] most people. That was our Chad,” Merrill’s brother Randy told HuffPost in a Facebook message. “You could count on him for anything. … None of us are surprised that he went out being a hero.”
“As a new father myself, what hurts the most is that his son, who was born just two months after mine, will never know his dad,” he added. “He brought out the best in everyone. … I will forever be proud of him.”
This story has been updated to include Randy Merrill’s comments.
The National Rifle Association hasn’t endorsed Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s bid for re-election this November, but the Republican governor told a group of student activists Friday that he wouldn’t accept the organization’s support even if it offered.
The governor was on hand to discuss firearms policy ahead of a student-led gun violence rally set to be held in Annapolis this weekend, according to The Washington Post. The two sides appeared to find some common ground in their willingness to push back against the NRA.
Hogan received the NRA’s endorsement in 2014, but he’s never been particularly cozy with the gun group. Some political insiders saw the move as evidence more of the NRA’s extreme dislike of Hogan’s Democratic opponent than of the group’s support for Hogan’s actual positions on guns.
Hogan’s relationship with the NRA has likely become more strained during his first term, especially recently. The governor bolstered the deep blue state’s already strong gun laws in April, signing a set of gun legislation that included a bump stock ban and a “red flag” law, which allows family members and law enforcement to petition to have firearms removed from individuals they believe to be dangerous. Hogan also approved $5 million in grants for programs designed to address urban gun violence. The NRA opposed all three bills.
Given that history, Hogan didn’t have much reason to believe the NRA would offer an endorsement in the first place, a spokeswoman for the governor told the Post.
“He told them he wasn’t expecting it and didn’t want it,” she said. “He doesn’t think the NRA are big fans of his at the moment.”
When asked what had changed since 2014, when Hogan accepted the NRA’s endorsement, the spokeswoman told HuffPost: “During his campaign in 2014, the governor said he would not act to change Maryland’s gun laws, which are among the toughest in the nation. He has not only kept that promise, but has supported and signed additional measures to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders and individuals with mental illness.”
The NRA did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Although the NRA may not end up playing a significant role in Maryland’s gubernatorial election, gun violence could be an issue more generally in November. Shootings have continued to tear through Baltimore in 2018, following a three-year period in which the city saw more than 1,000 homicides. One of the deadliest mass shootings of the year thus far also struck the state in June, when a gunman shot his way into an Annapolis newsroom and killed five staffers.
Students at Great Mills High School say there’s more the governor could do to prevent this bloodshed. At their meeting Friday, they spoke with Hogan about strengthening a state law to make it illegal for a person to store or leave a loaded firearm in a location where someone under the age of 18 could access it without supervision. The existing law applies for children under the age of 16. The Great Mills school shooter was 17.
A student told the Post that Hogan was “receptive” to their proposal.
Jesse Randall Davidson, 53, learned his fate on Tuesday after pleading guilty to several charges related to the incident at Dalton High School.
Those charges included two felonies ― first-degree criminal damage to property and first-degree carrying a weapon within a school safety zone ― and disrupting the operation of a public school, which is a misdemeanor.
Authorities said the former social studies teacher barricaded himself inside his empty classroom as school was in session and then fired a .38-caliber revolver out a window when the school’s principal confronted him at the door.
No one was seriously injured in the Feb. 28 shooting, and Davidson surrendered without further incident.
District Attorney Bert Poston, who announced Davidson’s sentence in a release, said detectives investigating the case determined that Davidson’s goal was likely to be killed by police.
“Davidson cooperated with law enforcement and his attorney, Richard Murray, indicated from the very beginning that he would be entering a guilty plea to the charges and taking responsibility for his actions,” Poston said.
Ahead of Davidson’s plea, Poston said the court heard from students, staff and family of those directly involved.
“There was no way to meet with each victim individually but every effort was made to ensure that any person wishing to be heard or to have a voice in the process was provided that opportunity,” Poston said. “Several individuals wrote letters and provided victim-impact statements to the court.”
Upon his release, Davidson will serve eight years of probation and owe a $1,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and more than $16,000 restitution. He will also be unable to possess a firearm, must undergo mental health counseling and treatment, and will not be allowed to work, volunteer or set foot on public or private school property.
As candidates for the Arizona state Senate discussed gun control legislation last week, one potential lawmaker told the audience how he shot and killed a crazed woman in an act of self-defense when he was a teenager.
“The only way you’re stopping a crazy madman who’s killing innocent people is that you better have a good guy there with a gun,” Republican Bobby Wilson said at a meeting organized by the gun control group Moms Demand Action.
The missing piece to that story? The attacker was his mother.
“You can pass all the laws you want to in this world, and when you’ve got somebody out there that wants to harm somebody, they’re going to do it if you don’t stop them,” Wilson told the crowd.
Wilson is running to represent a southern Arizona district and told The Associated Press that he isn’t trying to hide anything in his campaign.
In the video above, you can watch Wilson tell an audience that one night in 1963, his mother shot at him six times with a rifle while he was in bed in their Oklahoma farmhouse.
“I’m lucky to be alive, twice over,” he told the AP.
Wilson also wrote about what happened in his 2010 book Bobby’s Trials. The book details how his mother and sister died the same night their house burned down. Wilson’s website also states: “He and his sister were raised by a deranged mother who was a fugitive hiding in the backwoods of S.E. Oklahoma. In 1963, she tried to murder her own children in the early morning hours and only Bobby survived the deadly chaos that followed.”
While Wilson was reportedly charged with homicide after the deaths, two trials ultimately led to the court dismissing the case in the early ’70s. It’s unclear how Wilson’s sister died, and Wilson didn’t remember what happened that night for many years due to amnesia, according to the Arizona Republic.
Wilson is a licensed gun owner and told the AP that the night he killed his mother was “the only time I’ve ever been in that situation, and I hope it’s the last time.”
He will be taking on Republican Shelley KaisIn the GOP primary for a seat currently held by Democrat Andrea Dalessandro. While his story has led to more scrutiny and criticism of his campaign, that apparently doesn’t have him rattled.
Wilson wrote on his Facebook page on July 10 that he “loved” the “boos and catcalls.” He now knows how Trump must feel “with all the fake news stories making the rounds,” he wrote in a post on Tuesday.
“Guess I will run for President one of these days,” he added.
Ramos, a resident of Laurel, Maryland, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and is being held without bond, according to court records.
A reporter for Capital Gazette since 2014, Cook told The New Yorker that he volunteered to cover “the fucking Ramos trial,” despite his editor’s concerns it would further traumatize him, for one major reason.
“I don’t even know if it’s ethical. I think it is. I’m gonna treat it as unbiasedly as possible,” Cook told the publication. “If the Baltimore Suncovered it for us, that would mean the shooter wins.”
IVAN COURONNE via Getty Images
Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook, right, and photographer Joshua McKerrow, left, work on the next day’s paper while awaiting news of their colleagues in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2018.
It was confirmed hours after the shooting that Ramos had filed a defamation lawsuit against the Capital Gazette and columnist Eric Hartley in 2012. The article involved a criminal harassment case against Ramos in which he eventually pleaded guilty. Hartley wrote that Ramos had bombarded a woman with “months of emails in which [he] alternately asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself.”
Janel Cooley, a sales consultant at the paper, recalled in an interview with the Capital Gazette that Winters, 65, “shouted something like, ‘No! You stop that!’ or ‘You get out of here!’ like she was warding off an unwanted dog.” Fellow reporter Rachael Pacella told the publication that she thought what Winters did “served as enough of a distraction that maybe he didn’t see us.”
“I absolutely think that Wendi Winters saved my life,” she said.
The House GOP rejected a budget proposal this week to give $10 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence, once again zeroing out federal funding to study an epidemic that claims more than 33,000 lives in the United States each year.
Wednesday’s party-line vote would’ve been business as usual in most years. Congressional Republicans have been denying the CDC money for gun violence research for nearly two decades. But in March, they signaled a potential change when they passed a bipartisan spending bill with language specifically stating the CDC could study gun violence.
That measure, approved just a month after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, came amid renewed debate about the 1996 Dickey Amendment, which bars the CDC from “advocating or promoting gun control.” The provision doesn’t explicitly prohibit gun violence research, but it has effectively starved it of federal funding.
Some gun safety groups saw the spending bill language as a sign that Congress might be changing course in response to the recent surge of advocacy demanding action to address the violence.
“In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting this past spring, we finally had a flicker of hope that the Dickey Amendment was repealed and done with,” said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, in a statement Thursday.
After the vote, “that hope has been snuffed out,” said Brown.
As a result, the obstacles to new gun research remain. Congress hasn’t funded a CDC study aimed at reducing harm from guns in at least 15 years, even as the American Medical Association now says shootings have become a “public health crisis.” A 2017 study concluded that gun violence research is “substantially underfunded and understudied relative to other leading causes of death.”
And it’s not just that Congress has refused to give gun violence research the money and support that experts say would help save lives. Scientists and other officials wary of the political fray around gun violence research have also self-censored, and without a secure funding stream, they’ll likely continue to focus on topics that are less wrapped up in Capitol Hill partisanship.
“The CDC already knows that their budget is safest when they stay clear of anything that might offend the gun lobby and the gun lobby’s friends in Congress,” said Daniel Webster, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has published a number of studies on gun violence.
With their vote this week, the March spending bill language appears to have been little more than a symbolic gesture. Although it may have been meant to look meaningful to some, gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association ― which lobbied for the Dickey Amendment and has fought efforts to study gun violence as a public health issue ― knew nothing had changed.
A spokesperson for the organization told The Washington Post in March that the spending bill language was clarifying only for “people who can’t read,” because the Dickey Amendment had never officially disallowed gun studies in the first place.
Still, years after the late former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) expressed regret that his amendment had chilled federal gun violence research so thoroughly, it’s clear that the issue continues to be a third rail in Congress. During debate this week on the CDC budget measure, Republicans said they were concerned that earmarking funds for gun research would derail the entire bill.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chairman of the appropriations committee, said he didn’t want to “spend my time on the floor” debating gun control, according to Politico.
“They’re free to research anything they care to research,” said Cole, arguing that people can apply for gun study grants under the CDC’s broader injury prevention program.
Gun violence prevention groups had initially asked for $50 million for research on firearms. The House GOP’s refusal to offer anything is proof that Republicans are intent on preserving the status quo, gun reform groups said.
“It’s simply astounding that House Republicans can’t be bothered to ‘spend their time’ discussing a crisis that kills 96 Americans every day,” said Avery Gardiner, co-president of Brady. “To those standing in the way of this important funding ― do your jobs or step aside.”
An attorney for Shaundelle Brooks, DaSilva’s mother, filed the suit in Davidson County Circuit Court on Wednesday, requesting a total of $100 million in damages from Travis Reinking, the 29-year-old suspect, and his father, Jeffrey Reinking.
The lawsuit, obtained by HuffPost, accuses both men of “unconscionable conduct.”
It states that the younger Reinking used an AR-15-style rifle to attack the Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 22. It also claims that Jeffrey Reinking was negligent for entrusting a firearm to his son despite knowing that law enforcement had revoked the younger man’s right to possess one.
Daniel Horwitz, Brooks’ attorney, would not comment on Travis Reinking, but he had a message for his father.
“Let this lawsuit serve as a stark warning,” Horwitz said in a statement sent to HuffPost. “If you entrust someone that you know to be both dangerous and mentally unstable with one [of] the most efficient purveyors of death in modern society, you will be held personally accountable for the consequences.”
DaSilva, a locally known musician who went by the name Natrix, was one of four people who died in the Waffle House shooting. His girlfriend was also injured.
The year before the attack, officials had forced Reinking to surrender his firearms after he had a series of run-ins with law enforcement. He’d previously attempted to cross a security barrier at the White House and also claimed that singer Taylor Swift was stalking him, according to The New York Times.
Officials revoked Reinking’s Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card, which allowed him to legally possess a firearm, and turned his weapons over to his father, who promised he would keep them away from his son. But the elder Reinking later gave them back to him, according to Nashville police.
Jeffrey Reinking may have violated federal law for returning the guns, said Marcus Watson, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in a press conference after the shooting.
Brooks’ lawsuit claims that DaSilva’s death was a product of the Reinkings’ negligence and “civil conspiracy.”
“The harm that Jeffrey Reinking caused would have been foreseeable to any reasonable person,” Brooks’ lawsuit noted, citing the suspect’s “mental instability” and “fact that his right to carry firearms had been revoked.”
“The entrustment of firearms to Travis Reinking by Jeffrey Reinking directly resulted in, and was the cause, of the death of Mr. DaSilva,” the suit continued.
In a statement to HuffPost, Brooks said she wanted to prevent this type of attack from happening again.
“The purpose of this lawsuit is to honor my son’s beloved memory, hold those responsible for his death fully accountable, and help ensure that nobody else’s family ever has to experience the sorrow and horror that we have,” she said.
The family of Joe Perez, a 20-year-old also killed in the shooting, filed a similar wrongful death lawsuit against Reinking and his father in May, demanding $50,000 in damages.
The protesters called for action to halt continuing violence in the city. There were 252 homicides and 1,100 shootings in the first six months of this year, according to CBS, largely in predominantly black, low-income neighborhoods. Activists are demanding stiffer gun laws, as well as more jobs and resources, and better education in hard-hit neighborhoods.
“Today we got their attention,” Rev. Michael Pfleger told ABC 7 Chicago. Pfleger, a key organizer of the protest, called for an “aggressive plan” from civic leaders and politicians to address the violence. Without one, “we get ready for [more] civil disobedience,” he added.
“When people keep ignoring you, you take it up a notch,” Pfleger said. “We are going to continue to take it up a notch until we get responses.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson, who linked arms with Pfleger at the protest, said the city still maintains “ghetto borders,” actual or imagined, designed to keep “guns and drugs in — and jobs and schools out.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner sparred over how the protesters would be treated. Rauner’s office had warned that demonstrators would be arrested if they failed to stick to just two northbound lanes of the expressway — which Emanuel opposed.
Rauner called on Emanuel in a tweet to “take swift and decisive action to put an end to this kind of chaos.” The mayor responded on Twitter, calling the march a “peaceful protest” and told the governor to “delete your account.”
Pfleger said the winners of the day were the people who turned out in droves, “black and white and brown, young and old, saying we’re tired of the damn violence in Chicago. We want the governor, the mayor, the elected officials and the community all to come together and say we want peace now.”
ChicagoStrong is calling for Rauner to sign SB 337, a bill that expands the rules for gun dealers and requires state police to make a “reasonable” effort to make data on gun crimes public to more effectively battle illegal gun sales, PBS reported. In March, Rauner vetoed similar legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he thinks the federal government can’t do much to help stop school shootings.
“I don’t think at the federal level there’s much that we can do other than appropriate funds,” McConnell said while speaking to community leaders in Danville, Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.
McConnell said he feels heightened security in schools may help prevent shootings but argued that’s not the responsibility of the U.S. Congress.
“You would think, given how much it takes to get on an American plane or given how much it takes to get into courthouses, that this might be something that we could achieve, but I don’t think we could do that from Washington, I think it’s basically a local decision,” he said.
“It’s a darn shame that’s where we are, but this epidemic is something that’s got all of our attention,” he added.
McConnell, who has received money from the National Rifle Association, has repeatedly expressed his sadness over school shootings, regularly offering thoughts and prayers while workingagainstgun control legislation in the Senate.
The debate over gun control was renewed this week after five people were shot and killed in a Maryland newsroom.
• A suspect opened fire in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland.
• An official said there were five fatalities and two other people injured.
• Police have secured the building and evacuated 170 people.
• A white male in his late 30s has been taken into custody.
• The suspect reportedly mutilated his fingers to avoid identification, but authorities have identified him using facial recognition technology.
Five people died and two were injured in a “targeted attack” on the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, on Thursday, according to city officials.
One suspect, a white male in his late 30s, has been taken into custody and is being interrogated, said Bill Krampf, deputy chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, at a news briefing on Thursday. The man used a shotgun and “looked for his victims as he walked through” the newsroom, Krampf said.
The deputy chief also noted that the news outlet had received social media threats that indicated violence “as early as today,” although investigators were still determining who sent them.
“This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people,” Krampf said. “His intent was to cause harm, and as I stated before, the investigative part of this is going to be thorough and it’s going to take some time.”
He continued: “The Capital newspaper is our local newspaper. We interact with The Capital newspaper daily. We have friends at The Capital newspaper, we speak with these men and women on a daily basis. We’re here. We’re invested. We’re going to get this investigation right.”
This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm. Bill Krampf, deputy chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department
Authorities said officers were at the scene within approximately a minute of receiving 911 calls and that they evacuated 170 people from the building. They quickly took the suspect into custody, although Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said the man “has not been very forthcoming” about his motive, according to The Associated Press.
Krampf noted earlier Thursday that officials had discovered what they “thought may have been an explosive device that has been taken care of” at the scene of the crime. He later clarified that they’d found a bag containing smoke grenades.
Lisa Clough, director of media relations for the University of Maryland Medical Center, confirmed to HuffPost that one patient from the shooting was at their facility but could not confirm the type of wound or condition of the patient. Authorities described the injuries as superficial wounds, not gunshots, and said they may have been caused by broken glass in the newsroom.
“A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead,” tweeted reporter Phil Davis. “There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.”
A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead.
A Twitter user who identifies himself as an intern at the Capital Gazette tweeted out a request for help around 2:45 p.m. local time.
Baltimore Police responded to the newsroom of The Baltimore Sun ― which owns the chain of affiliated community newspapers in the Capital Gazette newsroom — as a precaution, but have not reported finding anything.
The New York City Police Department also sent officers to major New York media outlets, including HuffPost, following the attack.
“These deployments are not based on specific threat information, but rather out of an abundance of caution until we learn more about the suspect and motives behind the Maryland shooting,” Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said in a statement. “It has become a standard practice to shift resources strategically during active shooter or terrorist events.”
Jimmy DeButts, community news editor and metro columnist for the Capital Gazette, tweeted about the shooting Thursday afternoon, saying he was “numb.”
Devastated & heartbroken. Numb. Please stop asking for information/interviews. I’m in no position to speak, just know @capgaznews reporters & editors give all they have every day. There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays – just a passion for telling stories from our communty.
“We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment,” he tweeted. “We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.”
“We try to expose corruption,” he continued. “We fight to get access to public records & bring to light the inner workings of government despite major hurdles put in our way. The reporters & editors put their all into finding the truth. That is our mission. Will always be.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, responding to news of the shooting on Twitter, said he is “absolutely devastated to learn of this tragedy.”
“The Capital Gazette is my hometown paper, and I have the greatest respect for the fine journalists, and all the men and women, who work there,” Hogan said in a statement. “They serve each day to shine light on the world around us so that we might see with more clarity and greater understanding.”
He continued: “There is no place in our society for this kind of hatred and violence, and the individual responsible for this horrendous crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
President Donald Trump tweeted he has been briefed on the shooting and his “thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
Prior to departing Wisconsin, I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene.
“Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene,” he tweeted.
Maryland has some of the nation’s most stringent gun laws. The state restricts the sale of rifles or shotguns for buyers with a history of mental illness, violent behavior, criminal convictions or drug addictions. In April, Hogan banned bump stocks and expanded law enforcement’s ability to confiscate guns from troubled individuals with a measure known as a “red flag” law. He also approved $5 million in funding for gun violence prevention programs.
See more photos of the scene below:
Hayley Miller, Jenna Amatulli, Michelle Lou, Lydia O’Connor, Sara Boboltz and Nick Visser contributed reporting.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.