Pizza Hut needs to be put out of business.
Pizza Hut needs to be put out of business.
Pizza man says fear he'd die led to shooting
He’s unlikely to be charged for killing teen, has resigned job because of company gun policy
Apizza deliveryman, who said Monday he has been held up twice before, fired shots that killed a teenager during a holdup because he feared he would die and not see his wife and 5-year-old daughter again.
“I believe everyone has the right to defend themselves if their lives are threatened,” Christopher Miller, 43, said in a statement issued through police.
Miller, who said he has delivered pizza for about 10 years, has resigned because Pizza Hut bans employees’ carrying weapons, corporate spokesman Chris Fuller said.
Miller, who carried the gun in a fanny pack, had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and is unlikely to be charged, authorities said.
Paul Sturgill Jr., 17, bled to death under a hickory tree near an Irmo driveway after Miller fired two .45-caliber rounds into his chest Saturday, authorities said.
The bullets struck vital organs, but not Sturgill’s heart, Lexington County Coroner Harry Harman said, declining to provide details.
Sturgill and three other unarmed men chased Miller when he arrived at a house on the 300 block of Avery Place Lane about 10:25 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.
Someone had called in an order to a St. Andrews Road carry-out restaurant for two large, thin-crust pizzas with extra cheese.
Miller said he ran about 100 feet while Sturgill beat him before he pulled the trigger.
“Mr. Sturgill caught up to me,” Miller said. “He jumped on top of me, punching me several times in the face and head.”
Fearing the others would be on him soon, Miller said he “pulled my weapon and fired two shots in self-defense.”
He called 911.
Miller apologized to Sturgill’s parents for the loss of their son, who had returned to Irmo High School Jan. 5 after being away since the spring of 2005.
“I cannot begin to imagine the pain that you are going through, and for that I am deeply sorry,” Miller said.
In court on Monday, two of the accused denied they were involved in planning the holdup.
“My best friend’s gone,” Jason Todd Beckham, 18, told Lexington County Judge Brian Jeffcoat.
“As far as planning and the going through with the robbery, I didn’t have anything to do with it,” the slightly built teenager said as he stood in a orange jail jumpsuit at soldier-like attention.
“The only reason I didn’t say anything before is that I was threatened,” Beckham said without explaining.
Carlos Renard Dates, 20, denied he was involved in a conspiracy.
“It really wasn’t anything like that,” Dates told Jeffcoat, the county’s associate chief magistrate. The suspect said the men where “chillin’” at the Avery Place Lane house, where the owner later said he knew nothing about a pizza delivery.
When the commotion broke out between Miller and Sturgill, “I tried to stop it,” Dates said.
“There was nothing I could do. The guy had a gun and shot him.”
Lynn Sturgill said Sunday her son had never before missed a curfew. Paul Sturgill said, “He made one wrong decision. I guess he paid the ultimate price.”
Sturgill played in Irmo High School’s jazz band and had no disciplinary violations, the spokesman said.
A memorial service for Sturgill will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Barr-Price Funeral Home Lexington Chapel. Visitation will begin two hours earlier.
Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said the suspects — all former Irmo High students — are “callous.”
Metts said he thinks, but has no proof, they ate the $25.13 worth of pizza as Sturgill lay dying beside a driveway across the street from the delivery address.
“They took the pizzas and left; ... they were on the ground. We presume they ate the pizzas,” Metts said.
Detectives seeking an explanation for the robbery attempt are looking into the possibility that it might have been a gang initiation, Metts said.
Lexington County prosecutor Donnie Myers said he does not plan to review whether Miller acted properly.
The S.C. Attorney General’s Office said self-defense for deadly force can be, “kind of complicated.”
The person under attack must act reasonably throughout the incident, said Jennifer Evans, deputy attorney general for prosecutions.
The victim of the attack also must not be doing anything illegal, must try to retreat when possible and must believe he or she is in danger, Evans said.
Miller had run between 115 and 118 feet from where he was confronted before he shot Sturgill, sheriff’s spokesman Maj. John Allard said.
Myers said he agrees that Miller fired legally.
“If you’re bringing a pizza and they’re whipping your butt, you’ve got reason to shoot them,” Myers said.
On Monday in the small courtroom adjacent to the county jail, Judge Jeffcoat set identical $250,000 bonds for the three on charges of strong-arm robbery and criminal conspiracy. Both of the charges are felonies and carry penalties of up to 15 years and five years, respectively.
Justin Roundtree, 18, was the only one of the three to say nothing about the attack in court.
Relatives of Beckham and Dates attended the hearing but declined comment.
The three men left Irmo High without graduating, Roundtree and Dates in the fall of 2007, and Beckham in the spring of 2008, Buddy Price, spokesman for Lexington-Richland 5 said.
All said Monday they are unemployed.