South Carolina

3 accused of planning to ‘smash an Indian’ charged in SC store owner killing

Jaquinton Tradell Blair, left, LaJames Arteian Ross and Richard Devauhn Stewart
Jaquinton Tradell Blair, left, LaJames Arteian Ross and Richard Devauhn Stewart

Three people charged in the March 2 killing of Indian immigrant store owner Harnish Patel in Lancaster County are accused of a conspiracy to “smash an Indian,” police and court documents show.

Arrest warrants state that the conspirators believed Patel, referred to by them as “the Indian,” carried a gun and that they would need to be armed to rob him.

Police have not charged anyone with murder.

Patel, 43, was found dead outside his Lancaster home about three miles from his store, officials said.

Arrest warrants are the first indication that the crime is believed to have been a hate crime against an Indian immigrant.

Arrest warrants say that Jaquinton Tradell Blair, 23, of Lancaster; LaJames Arteian Ross, 22, of Charlotte; and Richard Stewart, all had roles in the robbery and conspiracy.

Blair and Ross are charged with conspiracy. They are both jailed under $85,000 bond after they were charged in early June.

Stewart, 42, of Lancaster, is charged with conspiracy and accessory to armed robbery before the fact. Stewart is being held without bond.

Stewart allegedly “consulted” with the other defendants, provided ammunition and information for the robbery suspects and “did nothing to prevent the incident,” arrest warrants state.

The killing shocked people in India and Indian immigrants in York, Chester and Lancaster counties.

Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister in India, wrote on Twitter that the Indian consul had spoken to Patel’s family in Lancaster. His death and the potential ethnic motive was first reported in The Herald March 3.

The crime was covered in India’s largest media outlets, including the Times of India, National Herald of India and Hindustan Times.

Patel was killed minutes after he closed up his Speedee Mart convenience store March 2. The store is near the Lancaster County sheriff’s office, and Patel was beloved by regular customers.

Lancaster Sheriff Barry Faile vowed to find all of those involved in the robbery, conspiracy and killing.

Police “will not slow down until we are satisfied we have the whole story and have arrested the person or persons directly resposnbile for Mr. Patel’s death,” Faile said in a statement Wednesday, after inquiries from The Herald about the investigation.

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