Crime

Former prosecutor fatally shoots man who shot grandmother

WBTV

Medic took two patients to Carolinas Medical Center from a reported shooting in the 1200 block of Pegram Street, near 15th Street, in north Charlotte on Tuesday morning.
Medic took two patients to Carolinas Medical Center from a reported shooting in the 1200 block of Pegram Street, near 15th Street, in north Charlotte on Tuesday morning. Davie Hinshaw: dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

A man is dead after police say he was shot by a former prosecutor in east Charlotte after allegedly shooting his grandmother in the leg, causing her to crash into a telephone pole.

The shooting happened around 9:39 a.m. Tuesday morning along the 1200 block of Pegram Street.

Police say that 31-year-old Degarrian Santonia Coleman and his grandmother, whose name has not been released, were driving along Pegram Street when they got into an argument. During that fight, police say, Coleman shot his grandmother in the leg, causing her to crash her vehicle into a telephone pole.

Relatives and friends say Coleman suffered from hallucinations and post traumatic stress. It's unclear what triggered the shooting in the car.

When the pair got out of the car, police say Coleman continued to shoot at his grandmother. That's when Stephen Sellers, who lives nearby, heard the commotion.

"One person or both parties got out of the car - the suspect and the victim," said Lt. Luke Sells with CMPD, "And a homeowner nearby heard the shots being fired."

Sellers, a former prosecutor, was getting ready for work when he said he heard shouting, then a gunshot, then a woman's voice crying "Don't shoot me," according to his attorney George Laughrun.

According to Laughrun, Sellers went outside and saw Coleman waving a gun and a female "cowering between cars" asking the gunman not to shoot her.

Sellers got his rifle, fired a warning shot and told Coleman, who was about 30-to-40 feet away, to drop his gun.

"And at that time the suspect did not to put down the gun and the homeowner shot the suspect," Lt. Sells said.

Laughrun said Coleman pointed the gun at his client, and Sellers fired three more shots, hitting Coleman in the chest.

A woman who did not want to give her name but identified herself as a friend of Coleman's said "that man didn't have to kill him like that and I understand he felt he was going to help that lady but he could have shot him in a defense tactic, like his waist."

She said the homeowner "could have hit him in his leg if he was really trying to defend and diffuse a situation."

When officials arrived on the scene, the grandmother was taken to Carolinas Medical Center to be treated for her injuries.

Coleman was also transported to the hospital where he later died.

According to the District Attorney's office, Sellers "was employed as an Assistant District Attorney from September 2011 to March 2014. During that period, he spent the vast majority of his time working on the Misdemeanor Team."

The DA says they are looking into whether any charges will be filed against him.

"Following CMPD's investigation, which is ongoing, the DA's Office will perform an independent review to determine whether any charges are appropriate. This review, which will be done in the same manner as any review of a fatal incident, will be done only with the consideration of the evidence and the law and without any regard to Mr. Sellers past employment."

Laughrun says his client regrets that a life was lost, but that he took action to save someone, and defended himself after Coleman pointed the gun at him.

Laughrun said the shooting was "tragic and justified under the circumstances."

Sam Hollis, who lives near the scene, shared his thoughts about the incident.

"It's been a while since there's been a shooting like this," Hollis said. "He saved the grandmother's life. Why would you want to kill your own grandmother?"

Relatives said Coleman, a father of four, was once shot in the face during a home invasion. They said he never recovered emotionally from it.

His family believes the homeowner should face charges. They said Coleman's relatives were on the scene and were trying to calm him down when Sellers fired the shots.

"I just don't want it to be said he saved the neighbor because he did not save that neighbor," Coleman's friend said of Sellers. "That lady right now is dealing with losing her grandson."

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak to a Homicide Unit Detective. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or visit the Crime Stoppers mobile app website at http://charlottecrimestoppers.com/.

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