It was after midnight, on April 18, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Darrell Niles, 17, a basketball player at Keenan High, only wanted to make sure a group of girls made it home from a club OK after a Saturday night out. He got into his 1992 Honda to follow the girls home. But he didn’t make it home himself.
Shannon Scott, 33, got a call from his 15-year-old daughter, one of the girls. She said they were being threatened by a group of other teens – (described in testimony as “women thugs”) – and that they were following her.
When Scott’s daughter and her friends got to his house, he reportedly told them to get to the kitchen, on the floor, as gunshots were allegedly fired at the home. Then, Scott came out armed with a .380 caliber gun, opening fire on the first thing he saw.
Darrell Niles, who was not armed, was shot and killed instantly as he sat in his car across the street. Scott, from his home, was shooting at where he presumably thought the shots at his home had come from – Darrell Niles’ car.
A report by thestate.com said Scott had a “Shoot First” sign hanging in his window at the time of the shooting. Was he one of millions of itchy-fingered undercover vigilantes? He didn’t immediately take responsibility when Darrell Niles was the fourth young man found dead in a car in Columbia during the first four months of 2010, although this one was right across the street from his home. Scott turned himself in and was arrested three days later, on April 21.
Now, over three years later and after a three-day immunity hearing before Judge Maite Murphy, Scott is free of all charges, successfully claiming stand your ground immunity, under South Carolina’s version of stand your ground law – the state’s 2006 Protection of Persons and Property Act. Scott claimed he was defending his family. Prosecutors plan to file appeals with the state Supreme Court.
His attorney is South Carolina State Representative Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia). More disturbing may be the fact that this case may be the first time in the United States that someone who killed an innocent bystander is not charged with their death – and the first time due to stand your ground – setting a dangerous precedent for future bystander shootings by someone claiming stand your ground.
Rutherford argued at the immunity hearing that someone can’t be expected to shoot straight in a life or death situation.
Under South Carolina’s law, people have the right to use deadly force against an assailant. However, the law doesn’t specifically say a person using deadly force can kill a bystander by mistake and be immune from any criminal prosecution.
A senate bill in Florida , which just gained Judiciary Committee approval last week, would limit the aggressor’s (immune person’s) liability only to the victim, but they could still be charged with a bystander’s death.
A “collateral damage” stand your ground bystander incident in Florida killed 9 year old Sherdavia Jenkins as she played outside her home in 2006, caught in the middle of a shootout over drugs. The shooter claimed stand your ground. At trial, a jury rejected second-degree murder and attempted murder charges (he was later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 5o years).
This issue must be addressed now – in every state that has self defense laws, particularly as it pertains to shooting and killing or injuring a bystander from within your own property.
The loopholes that exist within each state’s SYG self-defense laws vary from state to state, and there are several subtle but very dangerous avenues for a conspirator or perpetrator – whether intentional or not – to take advantage of the law, though they could still be charged with a bystander’s death.
At the very least, stand your ground laws must be changed, because the utmost utterly disturbing fact in all of this is something Scott’s attorney, Todd Rutherford pointed out during the immunity hearing: Darrell Niles was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
- Florida Senate Advances Changes In Stand Your Ground Law (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- Ron Davis slams stand-your-ground, Michael Dunn (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)
- South Carolina Man Gets Off Thanks To ‘Stand Your Ground’ After Shooting And Killing Innocent Bystander (thinkprogress.org)
- Cleveland Joins List Of Ohio Cities Against Stand Your Ground (endstandyourground.wordpress.com)