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September 22, 2010

Band member exchanges gunfire with robbery suspects; 1 dead

A member of a band playing in Rock Hill fought back when two men broke into their RV and tried to rob the band at gunpoint. The ensuing gunfight left one robbery suspect dead, another injured and a band member hospitalized.

A member of a band playing in Rock Hill fought back when two men broke into their RV and tried to rob the band at gunpoint.

The ensuing gunfight inside the recreational vehicle in the parking lot of The Money on Cherry Road left one of the robbery suspects dead, the other suspect and a band member hospitalized, Rock Hill Police Lt. Brad Redfearn said.

Scott Thomas, 37, is the drummer of Parmalee, a Southern Rock/Country band based in Greenville, N.C., who was playing at The Money, located at 110 S. Cherry Road, Monday night.

Thomas and his brother, Matt Thomas, a vocalist and guitarist for the band, returned to their RV after the show to celebrate, according to a Rock Hill police report.

Just after 1 a.m. Tuesday, two 22-year-old Rock Hill men, Demorrio Demarcus Burris and Dytavis Hinton, broke into the band’s motor home, showed a gun and demanded money.

Scott Thomas grabbed a weapon and demanded the robbery suspects leave, the report states. Matt Thomas told police the suspect fired first and his brother returned fire, according to the report.

Three people, the suspects and Scott Thomas, were struck by bullets.

Burris died of gunshot wounds, York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said. He was pronounced dead on the steps inside the RV where officials found him following the shooting. He had been shot multiple times, the report states. A gun was found nearby.

Hinton was shot on the lower half of his body, the report notes, and he was found lying in the parking lot after trying to get away, Redfearn said.

Scott Thomas, who had been shot three times, was found on the couch inside the RV. He and Hinton were airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center following the shooting. Scott Thomas was in critical condition and Hinton in stable condition Tuesday.

“We are wishing for a quick recovery for Scott Thomas” Josh McSwain, Parmalee band member said in a release. “The band is at his side and we are staying positive. Please keep Scott in your prayers, and together we will all get through this.”

According to the band's blog, Thomas was recovering after having surgery Wednesday morning.

This is Rock Hill's fourth homicide in 2010.

No charges had been filed as of Tuesday afternoon, Redfearn said. Hinton could face several different charges related to the shooting. The incident remains under investigation.

Based on preliminary information, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said it appears the people inside the RV acted within the laws of self-defense. But he said he will review all the documents and evidence in the case before determining if charges will be filed.

The Money sits across the street from Winthrop University. Neither Burris nor Hinton are Winthrop University students, officials confirmed. Neither suspect has a felony conviction in South Carolina, according to a State Law Enforcement Division background check.

The club wasn’t very busy Monday night and the robbery suspects weren’t patrons, said president Issac Spivey.

“These were guys that were in the parking lot,” Spivey said. “From my understanding, the came from the woods or something and saw the RV... We’re really hard pressed to foresee it was going to happen. It’s a sad situation.”

Is The Money safe?

Since last September, police have responded to 63 incidents at The Money, according to data released from Rock Hill police. Most were noise violations and minor fights. There were also a couple thefts, alcohol-related charges and traffic violations near the club.

“Obviously we don't want this type of crime in our city or this close to a group of students,” Redfearn said, referring to the club's close proximity to Winthrop University.

There were no violent crimes in the past year -- armed robberies, serious assaults or murders -- at the club, the data shows.

Spivey said they strive to provide a good, safe environment at The Money.

“The Money has tried the ultimate best it can to clean up its image,” Spivey said. “We’re trying to keep problems out. We take safety very seriously there. Anyone that needs to be excluded from the club aren’t given entrance in the first place.”

Winthrop University police assessed the situation and after learning no students were involved and there wasn’t a threat to the campus, officials decided not to send an alert to students, said university spokeswoman Rebecca Masters.

Rock Hill and Winthrop University leaders have sought to improve the area surrounding The Money, a stretch of Cherry Road home to strips of small businesses, rundown buildings and dilapidated properties.

“We are aware that there have been numerous police calls there, and many students tell us they avoid that particular place,” Masters said. “They also have said for some time that they wish there were more upscale stores, restaurants and entertainment available around campus.”

Land across from campus would make sense for a multi-story project with restaurants, shops and outdoor public gathering spaces, Winthrop President Tony DiGiorgio has said, describing the idea as a catalyst for future development.

A local citizens group studying how to create a better college town atmosphere in Rock Hill will issue a report next week with suggestions for how to improve the area. The group endorsed the concept of a village-style concept on Cherry Road with cafes, terraces and street sidewalk displays.

In the past, developers have said it’s difficult to do a big project because land on Cherry Road is divided into small properties, and some owners are reluctant to sell.

Herald reporter Matt Garfield contributed.

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