When she returned home from a trip last week, Vivian Harris found her mail neatly stacked on her kitchen table – just like she expected.
What she didn’t expect: Her privacy fence had been left open, her car’s windshield was shattered, and pictures of her house had been disseminated across the media as the site of an apparent officer-involved shooting that left one man dead.
But, the biggest surprise of all still has her grieving a week later: Her handyman for the past seven years was dead, killed by deputies after he allegedly pulled a gun on them and threatened to harm himself.
James Calvin Youngblood “knew how to fix everything” for Harris, a 73-year-old widow who lives in a Fort Mill neighborhood off Pleasant Road. A week ago, he died of gunshot wounds, leaving behind a 2-year-old son. Harris says he died in her car, parked in her driveway.
York County Sheriff’s deputies were sent there about 12:30 a.m. April 8 after Youngblood’s mother, Kathy Michelle Culp, told police he had threatened to harm himself, according to a sheriff’s report. After deputies didn’t find anyone at the house, they called Culp, who couldn’t tell them where else her son might be.
As deputies were leaving, Youngblood, 28, pulled a red Toyota Corolla into the driveway, the report states. Youngblood refused to get out of the car, the report states, became “irrational” and said he would harm himself if deputies approached.
Youngblood then “concealed his hands,” the report states, and pulled a pistol and pointed it toward deputies, “creating imminent fear and forcing deputies to fire.” He was pronounced dead at the scene. A hostage negotiator was not called to the scene because “there’s no time to call somebody in for that,” said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris.
“They ordered him to drop the gun,” Faris said. “They were trying to talk to him.”
The two officers – Sgt. Nathan Clark, 33, and Deputy Todd Zeigler, 29 – have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Clark has been with the Sheriff’s Office for nine years, and Zeigler has been a deputy for six, officials said. SLED continues to investigate the incident. Youngblood’s death was the 12th officer-involved shooting reported in South Carolina this year, according to SLED, and the third in York County.
“It was such a shock,” Harris said Monday. “The more I find out, the less I understand.”
Harris had been out of town visiting her sister when the shooting happened. The trip was impromptu, said Harris, who added she felt it was “ordained” that she should not be home during the fray. Otherwise, she and her dogs, who she placed at a kennel in Pineville, would have been in the middle of it all.
About Youngblood, Harris said, “He was a little above average (in) intelligence, as far as I’m concerned.”
He first started working for Harris part-time when he was in high school. Twice a week after work, he would go to Harris’ house, where “he vacuumed; he shampooed the carpet; he played with the dogs.”
He mowed her grass. He hauled heavy bags of dog food into the house. He even gave her computer lessons. He was just what Harris needed, she said, after screws had been placed in her back following a surgical procedure.
“He always said, ‘Call me if you need me,’ when he left,” she said.
Harris doesn’t believe Youngblood was depressed or suicidal, but “down in the dumps” because he and a woman had issues in their relationship.
Any time Harris went out of town, Youngblood would go to her house, check her mail and leave it for her on her kitchen table, she said. He did the same on Tuesday before he was killed. This time, though, he took her car, which deputies sprayed with bullets when Youngblood allegedly became “irrational.” Her car now has three bullet holes on the side, she said, and her windshield is completely gone.
“He never so much as borrowed a gas can without asking me and he never, never asked to drive my vehicles,” she said. “I just can’t make sense out of it. He got the mail, put it on the kitchen table, but for some reason, he took my car and left.
“When he came back, the police were waiting.”