Ambushed S.C. pizza man kills attacker
Bond set for suspects
By John Monk
The State (Columbia, S.C.)
Posted: Monday, Mar. 09, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Three men charged in the attempted pizza robbery Saturday had their bond set this morning at $250,000 each by Magistrate Brian Jeffcoat.
Justin Towan Roundtree 18; Jason Todd Beckham, 18; and Carlos Renard Dates, 20, all were told to be back in court April 23 for a preliminary hearing. Each is charged with criminal conspiracy and strong armed robbery of Pizza Hut delivery man Christopher Steven Miller, 43.
Miller shot and killed one of the assailants who attacked him when he attempted to deliver a pizza to a house on Avery Place Lane near Irmo High School.
Paul Andrew Sturgill Jr., 17, was killed in the shooting.
Sturgill, of 5819 Kenna Drive near Irmo, was pronounced dead of gunshot wounds later at Palmetto Health Richland Hospital, Sheriff James Metts said. An autopsy will be performed today. Sturgill was a senior at Irmo High School and a musician who received honor grades and planned to join the Army at the end of this school year, said his parents, Lynn and Paul Sturgill Sr., on Sunday night.
They said they were stunned to learn of their son’s death.
“This was the first time he has ever been late for his curfew,” said Lynn Sturgill, interviewed Sunday night in front of her Kenna Drive house, less than half a mile from Irmo High. “He’s a good kid.”
The shooting took place about 10:25 p.m. Saturday on Avery Place Lane, a quiet residential street less than a quarter-mile from Irmo High. Sturgill lay on the ground next to a driveway bleeding from wounds in the chest and stomach for a half-hour before medics arrived on the scene, neighbors said Sunday night.
Miller had a concealed weapons permit and was trying to retreat from his attackers while being beaten by one of them, Metts said. Such a permit allows a person to carry a hidden gun.
Miller carried a .45-caliber Taurus handgun in a fanny pack and took it out and fired while being beaten backward, Metts said. Such large-caliber pistols are known for their “stopping power” — the ability to bring down an attacker instantly.
No weapons were recovered from Sturgill, Metts said.
Metts said Sunday afternoon it appears Miller acted within the law and will not face charges. However, police have made no final decisions and will discuss the incident with prosecutors, he said.
“At this point in time, his (Miller’s) actions look very appropriate,” Metts said, describing them as apparent “self-defense” because Miller was retreating and his assailants continued to attack.
The sheriff’s department said Miller told detectives he did not want to talk publicly about the shooting.
“He is a little shaken; I understand he has a broken nose,” Metts said.
Roundtree is suspected of having a connection to a gang, Metts said. Metts did not have details.
Initial checks on the young men’s backgrounds indicate — apart from the possible gang connection — all had good records, Metts said.
Both Beckham and Dates said today they had nothing to do with the planned attack. Dates said he had tried to stop it.
Metts said that on Saturday night an order had been called in to Pizza Hut on Irmo Drive for two large, thin-crust pizzas with extra cheese for delivery to a house on Avery Place Lane.
However, when Miller showed up with the pizzas, he was met by a young man outside the house he was delivering to, Miller told detectives.
In fact, Metts said, the suspects had called the order in on a cell phone. The people who lived in the house had no knowledge of the pizza request, Metts said.
Miller gave the following version of events to police, Metts said: Miller exited the car with his pizzas. The young man standing in front of the house asked him if he had change for a $100 bill. Miller grew suspicious on noting that the young man had no money.
The young man began to hit him, and Miller spotted two other men coming toward him out of a nearby woods. Miller began to run away, pursued by the young man, who was hitting him. As he ran, he drew his pistol and fired, hitting him in the upper torso. The shots caused the two other men to run off.
After being shot, the assailant fell to the ground and began thrashing about and yelling.
“I thought he was saying, ‘Let me die,'” said Sandy Briggs, on whose driveway the assailant’s blood was still visible Sunday night. But another neighbor, Marsha Woods, believed the young man was shouting, “I don’t want to die.”
Neighbors, joined by sheriff’s deputies, looked on as the young man lay bleeding. Deputies administered first aid, they said.
Paul Sturgill Sr. said his son had big plans.
“He was planning on joining the Army and wanted to be an Airborne Ranger,” Sturgill said. “He had already signed papers.”
Sturgill asked people not to judge his son on this incident. “He made one wrong decision. I guess he paid the ultimate price.”
The pizzas were worth $25.13.
Police said Miller called police on his cell phone right after the shooting. Neighbors said they also called 911. Sheriff’s deputies were on the scene within minutes, they said.
Judith Shealy, whose house on Avery Place Lane the pizzas were brought to, said Sunday she has never ordered pizza.
Metts said that although an investigation will continue, one thing about Miller’s using his weapon is clear:
“This sends a loud message to the criminal element — you don’t know who’s going to be armed and who’s not going to be armed when you go to rob someone.”