Rock Hill teens accused in homicide were charged in alleged gang-related assault at Walmart

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 14, 2014 

— Two Rock Hill teenagers who turned themselves in to police on Monday and now face murder charges were also accused in an assault and robbery at Walmart last summer that authorities said was gang-related.

Maurice Burris, 16, and Dontavion White, 17, both are charged in the shooting death of 25-year-old Michael Giddens, who police found with gunshot wounds to his abdomen last Friday after a shooting at 1167 Cedar Grove Lane. Giddens was pronounced dead at Piedmont Medical Center. Witnesses told police they saw Giddens, who family and friends said was a tattoo artist who customized cars, run from a suspect who chased him into his home before the shooting.

Statements from witnesses and anonymous tips helped police develop Burris and White as suspects. The teens turned themselves in on Monday morning. Two municipal court judges denied their bonds at separate hearings. Other charges against the teens include possession of a weapon while under 18, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, criminal conspiracy and armed robbery, which police use to accuse the teens of stealing a shotgun that might have belonged to Giddens.

Abdul Emmanuel, who turned himself in to police on Sunday in connection with a week-old drive-by shooting, turned himself in again Tuesday night in connection with the homicide. A bond hearing for Emmanuel, 19, will be held Wednesday morning.

Police have not released a motive in the shooting. Giddens is Rock Hill’s first homicide victim this year.

Burris, a ninth-grade student at the Renaissance Academy, will be tried as an adult because of the severity of the crime. He was tried as an adult last summer, police say, when he faced charges that included assault and battery by a mob, armed robbery and possession of a firearm while under 18.

White, also a Renaissance Academy student, and Burris are being held at the York County Detention Center.

Last August, two teens told police they went to the Galleria to buy sneakers at 1 a.m. only to be confronted by a group of boys while they charged their cellphones in Walmart. The victims identified the boys as members of “715 FAM.” White and Burris, then 15, were among them.

Police say White approached one of the teenage victims, a 16-year-old boy, and hit him. The two began fighting, and$150 in cash the victim stashed in his sock to buy his shoes fell on the ground. That’s when police say Burris started hitting the victim, the report states. When two other teens tried helping their friend, Burris grabbed what one victim told police was a gun tucked behind his T-shirt. Burris then picked up the money and the group of boys ran out of Walmart.

The boy’s mother showed police photos on her cell phone of the suspects holding a gun and the money they took, the report states. Police charged Burris with unlawfully carrying a pistol, possession of a firearm under the age of 18, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, armed robbery and assault and battery by a mob. Authorities tried him as an adult. White was charged with assault and battery by a mob and shoplifting. The dispositions of their cases were not available Tuesday.

“I don’t think he did it,” said Gaylen Robinson, White’s cousin and neighbor, about the homicide. “It’s the company he keeps.”

Robinson said her cousin, “an excellent student,” left school at 1:30 p.m. last Friday. From what she’s heard, he allegedly walked to Cedar Grove Lane. But she doesn’t believe he would have been able to walk to the area around Cherry Road from Flint Street Extension in 30 minutes.

“He couldn’t have gotten there in time,” she said, adding that it’s possible someone he was with was involved in the homicide.

Burris’ family declined to comment.

After the incident last summer, members of 715 FAM said they are not a gang and were being unjustly targeted by police. On Tuesday, one of the group’s leaders said the actions of a few members have contradicted the message many others are trying to send.

“I know we’re saying that” 715 FAM is not a gang, said Antonio Wylie, the group’s director. “Actions of the artists ... it’s turning into something else. It’s a breach between the two. I still believe what we go by; we can’t control a person’s actions.”

Police say 715 FAM was created after one of its leaders died when he accidentally shot himself at 715 Green St. To honor his memory, friends took up the mantle “715 FAM.” Wylie said 715 is a rap group.

The group, he said, consists of about four core artists and a manager. They post music videos on YouTube, Facebook and other music-sharing websites.

Burris and White produced “good music” for the group within the last two years, Wylie said, adding that Giddens’ death has nothing to do with 715, but he calls it a “major setback” for the group. “When I found out about that incident, I didn’t know what to do or think about the situation.”

Wylie, 20, said younger fans and group members are beginning to “live out their lyrics.”

“This is what’s really going on ... this is what’s really going on in our city,” he said. “The younger guys, they’re really rapping and living out their lyrics. That’s not the message we’re trying to promote really.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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