From slurs to a shooting: How the Red Rose incident unfolded

Written by Ted Czech/The York Daily Record | Jul 23, 2018 9:11 AM
Chad Merrill and son.jpg

Chad Merrill died early Saturday morning after being shot once in the chest in the parking lot of the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge. (Submitted)

(Hellam Township) -- James Saylor allegedly had already cracked off a shot from his .45-caliber handgun, the bullet ricocheting off the Red Rose's exterior, when Chad Merrill appeared at the driver's side window of his truck. 

"He was literally two feet from the vehicle," Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock said of Merrill. 

Saylor, 24, had been inside the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge early Saturday morning, allegedly harassing a black patron, Jerrell Douglas. Merrill had come to Douglas' defense and the bar's owner eventually threw Saylor out.

With Merrill, 25, at his window, Saylor shot him once in the chest, police say. He then hit the gas, smashed into a car in the parking lot along Lincoln Highway in Hellam Township, and drove off, Pollock said. 

Several police departments joined in a swift manhunt, tracking Saylor to his parents' Lower Windsor Township home, where he lived in the basement, Pollock said.

Witnesses speculated Merrill may have been trying to do some peacekeeping, and Pollock thought possibly he was "trying to right the wrong." Family members said that sounds just like what he would have done.

But Pollock said Sunday detectives are not sure what Merrill's intentions were when it appears he followed Saylor out to the parking lot. But they do know what happened before that, and what followed.

A 'racial incident' in the bar

James Saylor mugshot.jpg

James Saylor, 24, of Windsor. (York County Sheriff's Office)

"It was a racial incident; that's how it kicked off," Pollock said.

After examining surveillance footage from the bar, police determined that there were a number of male patrons seated at the bar when Saylor squeezed his way into the group, Pollock said. 

There was a man in between Saylor and Douglas, but that didn't stop Saylor from  allegedly harassing him, including using the n-word and other racial slurs.

"You could tell he was giving him crap ... He's being a jerk," Pollock said.

The other men at the bar tried to ignore Saylor. Merrill, who was seated next to Douglas, but further away from Saylor, was telling Douglas to let it go, and tried to get Douglas to focus on him, rather than Saylor.

"He (Douglas) didn't escalate anything," Pollock said. "He did the right thing."

Pollock said it's not known if Saylor and Merrill exchanged words with each other inside the bar.

Still, owner Nick Spagnolo wasn't standing for Saylor's behavior and escorted him out of the bar.

Red Rose bar shooting.jpg

A fatal shooting happened at the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge, in Hellam Township, on Saturday morning around 1:50 a.m. (Photo: Ty Lohr, York Daily Record)

Shooting in the parking lot

Surveillance footage shows Saylor walking out to the Red Rose parking lot and over to a pickup truck. He tries to get in, but the truck is not his, Pollock says.

That's when Saylor, with his back to the bar, pulls a gun from his shorts, half-turns toward the bar and fires.

"He had a gun shoved into the waistband in the front of his shorts," Pollock said.

The bullet glanced off the building and was found in a nearby grassy area. At that point, Saylor finds his truck and gets inside, starting up the engine, police said. 

But then, an Uber driver pulls into the parking lot, temporarily preventing Saylor from leaving.

The Uber driver's coincidental appearance allowed Merrill -- who had emerged from the bar and into the parking lot -- to catch up with Saylor, Pollock said.

"He was right there, standing next to the truck," Pollock said.

After allegedly shooting Merrill in the chest, Saylor blasts out of the parking lot, striking the Uber driver's vehicle as he flees.  

Investigation and arrest

When Saylor's name was mentioned as a possible suspect, a Lower Windsor Township Police officer said he had issued a ticket to Saylor recently. The officer had Saylor's address, Pollock said.

Pollock said he asked for York Area Regional Police to respond to Saylor's home. When the York Area officers arrived, they found a pickup truck with fresh damage, matching the crash with the Uber driver, Pollock.

The officers arrested Saylor and took him away to be interviewed. Through their investigation, police found blood on the rear driver's side door of Saylor's truck.

Inside the truck's center console, police found Saylor's gun, allegedly used in Merrill's death. Also inside the truck was a shell casing from the bullet that struck Merrill, Pollock said.

Two detectives interviewed Saylor. He said he owned a gun, said he knew where he had put it. But that was about it.

"He never once acted like he knew what he did," Pollock said.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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