An investigation continued Sunday on what caused a stranded driver to fire on the Good Samaritan who stopped on an icy Catawba County road Friday to help.
Meanwhile, social media and national attention helped push donations to an online gofundme.com memorial fund above $13,000 on Sunday for 26-year-old Jefferson Heavner of Newton.
And some used those same social media platforms to continue the national debate over how to reach a better balance between gun rights and public safety. Pro gun-control proponents made most of the comments on Facebook and Twitter, using tags such as #gunsense and #senseless.
“Pro-gun people, help me understand what YOU think we should do …,” said a Twitter post by Doug Levy.
Officials have not officially said what might have caused Marvin Jacob Lee, 27, of Claremont to shoot Heavner, but Lee was passed out in his vehicle by the time members of a SWAT team pulled him from it, investigators reported.
“This was a senseless crime that took a son, brother and father from a family that loves him dearly,” says the post on the memorial fund page started by Heavner’s cousin, Crystal Steagall, to help pay for his funeral expenses.
Heavner was a single father. His mother plans to seek custody of his 17-month-old son, Steagall told the Observer in an email Sunday.
Heavner and two other men were passing in a truck around 5:20 p.m. Friday when they stopped to help the motorist whose car had spun out on Mathis Church Road in the Bandys community, Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said. Nearby neighbors came to help, too.
But Lee became belligerent, and Heavner decided to call police.
As they called, Lee took out a pistol and started shooting, the sheriff said.
The group ran. A bullet struck Heavner and he fell. Lee walked to Heavner, stood over him and shot him “numerous times,” Reid said.
Lee returned to his car as deputies arrived. They shouted for him to get out.
When he didn’t, they called a SWAT team, which pulled up to Lee’s car in an armored truck. “They saw that he was passed out,” Reid said.
Lee awoke as they struggled to pull him out, and Lee tried to resist, Reid said.
Lee was in the Catawba County Jail without bond on Sunday after being charged with murder.
Authorities are also trying to determine whether he should be charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at other motorists who came to his aid. His previous run-in with police involved traffic infractions, but he did not have prior arrests for violent offenses, records show.
Reid said Sunday Lee didn’t have prior criminal convictions that would prevent him from obtaining a gun or a concealed carry permit. Reid said the department’s records division was closed on Friday because of the storm, so investigators won’t be able to determine where the gun came from until Monday. The gun used in the crime had not been reported stolen, Reid said.
Living for the moment
Jessica Heavner said it was just like her brother to stop and help a stranded driver.
“Pretty much the irony is he went out of this world doing what he loved to do: helping people,” Jessica Heavner said.
Jefferson Heavner grew up in the town of Catawba and more recently lived in Newton.
He always wore a smile, his sister said, and loved the outdoors, including hunting, working on cars and riding four-wheelers.
“He was always up for an adventure,” she said. “He was very fun loving. He lived every day in the day and for the moment.”
Jefferson Heavner was recently laid off from his job as a line worker for Time Warner Cable, his sister said.
Family members recalled how he always went out of his way to help others.
If he saw a stranger in the local Wal-Mart parking lot whose car wouldn’t start, Heavner would get his jumper cables out, his sister said.
Maria David and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed.