New dad killed after defending black man from slurs at York County bar

Written by Candy Woodall and Geoff Morrow/The York Daily Record | Jul 21, 2018 10:33 PM
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)

Update: The mother of Chad's son says "we won't let him forget" about his father

Richard Merrill would give anything to have his brother back. 

But if there's any solace, it's knowing he can be proud of the way his brother died, just as he was proud of how he lived. 

Chad Merrill, a 25-year-old new dad and Lower Windsor Township resident, was fatally shot in the chest early Saturday morning after defending a black man who was being called the n-word and other racial slurs. 

Police confirmed the shooter made the racist comments at the black man, Jerrell Douglas, who Chad Merrill was defending and possibly knew as a regular in the bar.

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

James Saylor mugshot.jpg

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

Police identified the alleged shooter as James Saylor, a 24-year-old Lower Windsor Township resident. Saylor is charged with one count of criminal homicide. 

That homicide occurred about 1 a.m. in the parking lot of Red Rose Restaurant & Lounge after the owners told Saylor to leave.

Saylor was arraigned Saturday night in York.

The affidavit states Saylor was arguing with Douglas, a friend of Merrill's. Saylor was removed by Red Rose owner Nick Spagnolo after Saylor used racial slurs toward Douglas.

Surveillance video from the bar showed Saylor being removed, then walking toward his vehicle, a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, in the parking lot. He then discharged a round from his gun toward the building, the affidavit states.

More surveillance video showed Merrill walking into the parking lot and toward Saylor's vehicle, then falling to the ground. Witness accounts suggest Merrill may have been trying to do some peacekeeping.

Jessica Godden, the mother of Merrill's 5-month-old son, confirmed that Merrill and Saylor both attended Eastern York High School.

When police arrived after being dispatched at 1:02 a.m., Merrill was on the ground bleeding from a suspected gunshot wound to the chest.

After the alleged gunshot, Saylor attempted to leave the area in his pickup but collided with a black Mazda sedan before fleeing west.

Damage from the collision helped police match the description of the vehicle later in the morning, as the truck was found at Saylor's address in Lower Windsor Township. 

Merrill was pronounced at the hospital at 1:50 a.m.

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)

"Maybe he was trying to right the wrong," said Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock. 

"This is unusual," he continued. "In the 16 or 17 years I've been here, there hasn't been a homicide. It doesn't happen here." 

But it happened in Hellam Township early Saturday morning. 

Richard Merrill, Chad's older brother, still can't believe it. 

"All my brother was doing was sticking up for someone. He was shot point blank," said Merrill, a 31-year-old Lititz resident. 

Though he's shocked his brother was killed, he's not surprised he defended someone against racial slurs. 

"My brother was someone who wanted to create peace," Merrill said. 

Police are still investigating but initially said the victim did not know the alleged shooter. That was supported by Richard Merrill, who said he doesn't believe Chad knew Saylor. 

He will make sure Chad's son knows how much he was loved. He will make sure his nephew knows who his dad really was. 

"He was a great father. He put his heart and soul into his son," Merrill said. "He was a very caring guy, a very nice person always there to help somebody out. He loved his son, loved his life, loved playing basketball and sports. He was a hardworking man."

A mason by trade, Chad worked several local jobs as a contractor. He was a graduate of Eastern York and received some training at York Technical Institute. 

His sister-in-law, Christine Merrill, remembers him as "a fun-loving guy." 

"This is absolutely heartbreaking for our family," she said. 

She and her husband, Richard, have set up a GoFundMe to help pay funeral costs and support Chad's 5-month-old son, Layton.

Though Richard Merrill wants his brother back, he doesn't regret that his younger brother defended someone in a bar over racial slurs. 

"That's just who he was," Merrill said. "I'm proud of the man he was." 

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

Published in News, York

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