Chad Merrill was only looking to do the right thing when he stood up for his friend, a black man, as he was verbally assaulted with racial slurs. However, his efforts to be a peacemaker resulted in Merrill's death.
According to the York Daily Record, Merrill was at the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge in York, Pennsylvania, early Saturday morning (July 21) when a man began hurling the N-word and other slurs at Jerrell Douglas. Seeing the harassment that others seemingly tried to ignore, Merrill made an effort to stand up for Douglas. As James Saylor, the racist suspect in question continued to be a bigot, he was eventually thrown out by the bar owner.
Upon being kicked out, Saylor ran to his pickup truck and pulled out a handgun. The 24-year-old suspect had issued a shot from his gun that ricocheted off the Red Rose's exterior. After his initial shot is when 25-year-old Merrill appeared at Saylor's window in what witnesses assume was meant to be peacekeeping. Instead, Saylor shot him once in the chest before speeding off.
As Saylor attempted to get away, he collided with an Uber vehicle entering the parking lot and drove off. Thanks to the damage of the accident, police were able to track Saylor to his parents' home where he lived in their basement.
"It was a racial incident; that's how it kicked off," Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock confirmed.
Pollock said surveillance footage shows Saylor squeezing his way between a few men already seated at the bar when the harassment of Douglas began.
"You could tell he was giving him crap ... He's being a jerk," Pollock said. "He (Douglas) didn't escalate anything...he did the right thing."
While Douglas did his best to keep his cool, peacekeeping is a trait Merrill's family wholeheartedly attribute to him.
“He was always the peacemaker. He didn’t want people hating each other,” Chad's brother, Richard Merrill, told The Washington Post. “Or the world being segregated the way it is, with the racism you see all over the news. The world wants to keep everything segregated, and he would rather have seen everybody get along.”
"All my brother was doing was sticking up for someone. He was shot point blank," Richard said, still in disbelief.
Chad was the new father of a 5-month-old son, Layton. The child's mother, Jessica Godden, told the Daily Record Chad and Saylor both attended Eastern York High School. However, their relationship to each other is unknown.
Saylor has since been charged with criminal homicide and denied bail, according to court records. Pollock told the Daily Record, “He never once acted like he knew what he did.”
A GoFundMe campaign was started by the Merrill family to assist with funeral costs and has exceeded their $15,000 goal. The extra funds will go to helping his son.
While the family is still hurt and shocked, it's clear they're also thankful for Chad's courageous act.
"That's just who he was," Richard said. "I'm proud of the man he was."
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