A Kershaw County grand jury has refused to indict a Camden man charged with voluntary manslaughter for shooting and killing a 17-year-old who was apparently trying to siphon gasoline from the man’s pickup truck in the middle of the night in February.
The teen, Brandon Spencer, was running away at the time after trying to steal some gasoline from the truck of Jimmy Joe Methe, 49, while it was parked in front of his Norden Drive home in Camden, according to evidence in the case.
Methe shot Spencer once in the back of the head from a distance of 37 yards as Spencer was fleeing down a street with an accomplice – apparently another youth – around 3 a.m. Feb. 13, Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said Friday.
The charges Matthews had filed against Methe now will be dismissed.
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Methe’s attorney, William Tetterton of Camden, was not available for comment.
Matthews said Friday he was disappointed in the grand jury’s decision.
“I would have liked the entire case, with all the evidence, to be presented before a jury, hopefully composed of people who had not already made up their mind in the case,” Matthews said.
While Matthews said he did not know the make-up of the grand jury that declined to indict Methe, a jury in a criminal trial goes through a selection process to ensure that an impartial jury is chosen.
A trial would have served to air all the evidence in the case, pro and con, so the public would have learned what went on and whether a shooting in which a life was taken was in fact justified, Matthews said.
The two youths left a gas can with a length of hose near Methe’s truck and had apparently planned to siphon gas from the truck when he came out of his house, causing them to run. Neither youth was believed to have been armed.
Methe told deputies he warned both people – twice – as they tried to flee, ordering them to freeze, and threatening to shoot, a prosecutor told a judge during a Feb. 17 bond hearing.
Spencer was shot in the back of the head, Matthews said.
“Is this the kind of crime you want to kill somebody for?” Matthews said.
Methe had previously had his truck broken into and two guns were stolen, Matthews said. The sheriff’s department has arrested suspects for that crime, the sheriff said.
The Stand Your Ground defense, which allows residents to defend themselves if they feel their lives are in immediate danger, does not apply, Matthews said in an earlier interview.
After the shooting, Methe called police, was cooperative with the responding officers and relinquished his weapon to them, they said. He was taken into custody without incident.
Investigators recovered items that had been removed from Methe’s truck. They also located a gas can and hose that they believe were to be used to siphon gas from the truck.
The neighborhood where the shooting took place has been hit with several vehicle break-ins as well as larcenies and burglaries in recent months, the sheriff’s office said.
“Law abiding citizens are frustrated with the failure of our criminal justice system that really does not deter crime,” Matthews said Feb. 13. “Situations like what occurred early this morning are more and more likely to be the result of that frustration. ...”
“The law states that you can use deadly force to protect yourself, your family or someone who is in immediate danger of death or great bodily harm,” Matthews said after charging Methe. “The law does not allow you to shoot and kill someone who has stolen from you and is fleeing.”
Spencer, a student at Camden High School, had one prior arrest, for possession of marijuana in February 2016, the sheriff’s office said. Methe was arrested on a marijuana violation in 1995.
Spencer did not have any of Methe’s property on him when law enforcement found his body, prosecutors said.
Spencer, who was from North Carolina and had been living with his grandmother in Camden, was the father of a 2-year-old son, his grandmother said.
Investigators still have not confirmed who was with Spencer on the night he was killed, Matthews said.