A man who was removed from a Pennsylvania bar after allegedly harassing a fellow patron with racial slurs fatally shot a new dad who may have been “trying to right the wrong,” police said.
James Saylor, 24, was inside the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge in York early Saturday when he was asked to leave by the bar’s owner after allegedly harassing Jerrell Douglas, who is black, with the N-word and other racial slurs, the York Daily Record reports.
Another man at the bar, Chad Merrill, rushed to Douglas’ defense as the argument spilled outside.
“You could tell [Saylor] was giving [Douglas] crap,” Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock said of Saylor. “He’s being a jerk.”
Surveillance footage from inside the bar shows that other men tried to ignore Saylor, with Merrill trying to tell Douglas to ignore the bigoted remarks, the newspaper reported.
“[Douglas] didn’t escalate anything,” Pollock said. “He did the right thing.”
It’s unclear if Saylor and Merrill exchanged words inside the bar, but surveillance footage showed Saylor later walking out to his pickup truck and firing his .45-caliber handgun toward the building, police said.
“He had a gun shoved into the waistband in the front of his shorts,” Pollock said.
Saylor then found his truck and got inside the vehicle before an Uber driver pulled into the parking lot, temporarily blocking him from driving away. That’s when Merrill approached Saylor — who, sitting in his truck, fatally shot the man “literally two feet from the vehicle,” Pollock said.
After shooting Merrill once in the chest, police said, Saylor slammed on the gas and smashed into another car as he fled the scene. He was later arrested at his parents’ home in Lower Windsor Township, where he lived in the basement, Pollock said.
Witnesses at the bar said Merrill may have been trying to broker some peace between the men. Pollock said Merrill might have been “trying to right the wrong” before he was shot.
Merrill’s brother, Richard, said he wasn’t surprised that his younger brother was defending someone.
“All my brother was doing was sticking up for someone,” Richard Merrill, 31, of Lititz, told the newspaper. “He was shot point blank.”
Richard Merrill remembered his brother as a hard-working mason and a “great father” who poured his soul into his 5-month-old son, Layton.
“That’s just who he was,” Richard Merrill said. “I’m proud of the man he was.”
Jessica Godden, the mother of Merrill’s baby son, said Merrill and Saylor both attended Eastern York High School, but it was unclear if they knew each other, Richard Merrill said.
His sister-in-law, Christine Merrill, said Chad Merrill was a “fun-loving guy” whose death has left a significant void.
“This is absolutely heartbreaking for our family,” she told the newspaper.
Saylor has been charged with one count of criminal homicide.
An online fundraiser set up to help offset Merrill’s funeral costs and to support his young son had garnered more than $18,000 as of early Monday.