Man shot to death while defending his friend against racial slurs, police say

Posted at 1:19 PM, Jul 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-27 13:19:22-04

YORK, Penn. – When a man wedged himself between a group of customers at a bar near York, Pennsylvania, and began yelling racial slurs at Chad Merrill’s friend, Merrill told his friend to ignore him.

His friend Jerrell Douglas, who is black, took the advice.

But after the abusive man was kicked out of the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge early Saturday morning, Merrill followed him outside to his pickup truck and confronted him.

Soon after that a friend of Merrill’s, Kierstan McLasky, went outside to look for him and found a gathering crowd of people. As McLasky got closer, she saw Merrill lying in a pool of blood.

Witnesses told police that another York area man, James Saylor, was the one yelling the racial slurs. Saylor, 24, is now being held in York County Prison on one count of criminal homicide.

What police and witnesses say

Police in Hellam Township say that surveillance-camera footage showed Saylor leaving the bar and firing a shot towards the building. The footage then showed Merrill approaching Saylor’s truck, after which Saylor shot him in the chest and sped off, crashing into a sedan that was pulling into the parking lot.

The York County Coroner’s office said Merrill was transported to a hospital, where he died. He was 25.

Police said they tracked Saylor down the same day at his home, where his Chevrolet Silverado was parked outside. The vehicle had sustained damage that coincided with the parking lot crash, according to a police affadavit.

Saylor’s preliminary hearing is set for August 3. Court records show he had six previous convictions for careless driving and related traffic violations. It couldn’t be determined Tuesday whether or not he has an attorney.

McLasky told Richard Merrill that she and Chad had shot some darts that night at the bar. He told her that he had just bought some tools for his work in masonry.

And moments before he left the bar, he told McLasky how happy he was to be a new father to his 5-month-old son.

‘He was the type of person to create peace’

Richard Merrill said he got the call about his brother’s death from another of his siblings.

“I was just pretty much in shock. I couldn’t believe it,” he told CNN. “He was definitely the type of person to create peace and make everyone else get along.”

Chad Merrill recently tried to get another of his brothers and his mother to speak after years of not doing so, Merrill recalled.

The birth of his son, Layton, marked a new chapter in Merrill’s life. He had longed for a child.

His brother repeatedly used “ecstatic” to describe Chad Merrill’s reaction to the news of the pregnancy. He was especially thrilled to learn he was having a boy.

“When he was feeding him, the way he would stare, and the smile he had on his face … he was just so happy to be a dad,” Richard Merrill said.

Several attempts to contact Douglas, the friend who Merrill was defending, have been unsuccessful.

The Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge expressed their sympathies in a Facebook post.

“We would like to extend our most heartfelt condolences to the Merrill family. Please know that our sincere thoughts and prayers are with you,” the bar said.

GoFundMe page to help with Merrill’s funeral costs has raised more than $53,000. Any leftover funds will go to Merrill’s newborn son, it says.

Richard Merrill said his family has shed their share of tears, especially when looking through photos and videos of his slain brother. But they’re trying to focus on the good memories, he said.

“We’re definitely trying to make it a point to talk to each other more and look after each other,” Merrill said.