An argument between father and son ended Thursday morning with the 20-year-old son slain on a quiet Myers Park neighborhood street and his father charged with murder.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police identified the son as Benjamin James Gurley. His adoptive father, 63-year-old Earnest Howard Gurley Jr., was taken into custody after he called 911 and told operators hed shot his son. By Thursday afternoon, police announced hed been charged with murder.
The shooting happened shortly before 8:45 a.m. on Fairfax Drive, just south of Runnymede Lane in a one-story brick home with an American flag flying out front.
Benjamin Gurley was shot in the chest but was able to stagger to the front yard, where he died under a tree, police said. His body lay there most of Thursday morning, partially hidden by a screen, as police snapped photos and neighbors watched.
Family members werent clear about what started the argument, but James Gurley, Earnests brother, said his nephew was involved in drugs and had repeatedly stolen from family members. Father and son had fought about the drugs and thefts before, he said.
Earnest Gurley adopted Benjamin Gurley as a child. But when Earnest Gurley and his wife divorced, the boy was caught in the middle, James Gurley said.
He was back and forth between the households, kind of a lost kid, James Gurley said. And then he got into the drugs.
James Gurley said he didnt know what kind of drugs his nephew was involved in, but they were worse than marijuana, and he stole to get money for them.
He stole from his father. He stole from anyone he could to buy the drugs, James Gurley said. Hes done it more than one time. He stole from his mother. He stole from friends.
Father, son had records
According to Florida criminal records, in August 2010 Benjamin Gurley was charged with dealing in stolen property, larceny and fraud and booked into the St. Johns County jail in St. Augustine, Fla. The disposition of those cases wasnt immediately available, but James Gurley said the charges had been dropped.
Benjamin Gurleys father also has faced prior criminal charges.
In November 2004, Earnest Gurley was charged with driving while impaired in Mecklenburg County. On that same day in November, he was charged with assault on a female and hit-and-run causing property damage, though those charges were later dismissed. He was convicted of the DWI charge and sentenced to 12 months of probation and 24 hours of community service.
Soon after he was charged, a woman who had been in a relationship with Earnest Gurley filed a temporary restraining order against him. In court documents, she wrote that Earnest Gurley had punched me several times in the face causing a black eye and bruises. She also said that hed threatened to kill her. She told authorities that he drank every day until he passes out and had a number of guns, including a .357 Magnum, that he slept with under his pillow, according to court documents.
A neighbor told WCNC-TV, the Observers news partner, that the family kept to themselves, and she saw no signs of trouble.
Officer Robert Fey, a CMPD spokesman, said someone called 911 and said he had just shot his son. Officers arrived and found the body of Benjamin Gurley, who had been shot in the chest, according to several reports. Paramedics pronounced him dead at 8:51 a.m.
Started with argument
Police said the incident began as a verbal altercation. As police launched their investigation, Earnest Gurley was held for questioning. Video from WCNC-TV showed an apparently distraught Earnest Gurley being taken into police headquarters in handcuffs.
Police stayed at the house well into Thursday afternoon, talking to neighbors, trying to find witnesses or anyone who might have heard something related to the shooting.
Police investigators took photos near the mailbox at the front door of the house. Later, they used a sophisticated camera to take a 360-degree image of the crime scene before the body was taken by the Mecklenburg medical examiner.
Staff researcher Maria David contributed.