CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA — In a weird twist of events that has left neighbors in shock, a man was shot and killed by his neighbor, a former Mecklenburg County prosecutor, following him shooting his own grandmother. It’s not really as confusing as it seems. WSOC-TV reports that the woman and man were arguing in the car on their way to their house when the man reportedly took out his gun and shot her. This caused her to crash into a telephone pole where she got out. According to neighbors and witnesses, Degarrian Santonia Coleman, 31, continued to fire at his grandmother until his neighbor came out and shot and killed him.
That neighbor? WSOC confirms that it was former Mecklenburg County prosecutor Steve Sellers.
“He [Sellers] approached the ongoing argument and challenged the individual with a gun [Coleman] and at that time the suspect did not put down the gun and the homeowner shot the suspect,” Lt. Luke Sell said.
Both Coleman and his grandmother were rushed to Carolinas Medical Center where Coleman was pronounced dead. His grandmother is presently in stable condition.
Sellers is having his case reviewed by the District Attorney to determine if any charges will be filed. His defense attorney, Brad Smith, says Sellers’ conduct was within the bounds of North Carolina law. In North Carolina, it is legal to intervene in a life-threatening situation.
“You can step into that person’s shoes and defend that person with force that is reasonably in proportion they are being threatened with,” Smith said.
Smith is also a former county prosecutor and expects all charges to be dropped against Sellers.
According to WSOC-TV, neighbors say Sellers’ actions were justified. Of the neighbors interviewed, the general consensus was Sellers played a good Samaritan role.
“I watched him grow up and if it was something I ever needed he did it for me,” said Andrea Booker, Coleman’s cousin.
She said she wishes the neighbor would not have used deadly force.
Now the former county prosecutor for Mecklenburg county is awaiting a final decision from the District Attorney’s office as to whether the State will press charges.
Far Worse Alternatives – Far Bigger Consequences
Based upon the case as it’s presented, this should be an open and shut case. Coleman was not going to stop shooting at his grandmother and endangering the rest of the community. Backup a second. He shot his grandmother – presumably unarmed.
This smacks of a similar case that happened over the Fourth of July weekend where a man shot his two cousins and brother in Memphis. His brother was an off-duty Memphis Police Department officer. Unfortunately, when a family member becomes irrational and violent – there’s little room to negotiate. Thankfully, a good neighbor was there to help.
And Sellers did present Coleman with the option of putting down his firearm. He did give him that opportunity. Coleman declined – at his own peril. Unlike the case in Memphis, there was someone ready to respond at a moment’s notice when shots rang out. And thankfully, that woman is likely still alive because of it.
Do you think Sellers could have handled this differently or do you think his actions were justified? Tell us about it in the comments section below.