Forty years is the most time a Rock Hill man will serve in prison after he pleaded guilty Monday to fatally shooting another man during a drug deal in January.
In a York County courtroom, Abbdul Omar Emmanuel, 19, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, armed robbery, criminal conspiracy and possession of a weapon during a violent crime in the shooting death of Michael Giddens, 25.
Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch of Spartanburg deferred Emmanuel’s sentencing to a later time but told the defendant that, as a result of a plea deal with prosecutors, he will spend anywhere between 20 and 40 years behind bars.
On Jan. 10, police say Emmanuel and two co-defendants, Maurice Burris and Dontavion “Qua’Mek” White, went to Giddens’ home on Cedar Grove Lane to purchase marijuana from a man whom a classmate knew to sell pot, said Willy Thompson, deputy 16th Circuit solicitor. They invited Emmanuel, who White referred to as “Jay.”
When they arrived and knocked on the door, Emmanuel, already armed with a pistol, went inside and pointed it at the dealer and two other men inside the house, police say. He fired the gun three times, striking the chest and leg of Giddens, who sat on the floor with a sawed-off shotgun in his lap, a game controller in his hand and his phone in the other hand. Emmanuel stole Giddens’ shotgun, Thompson said, and chased the other men, firing shots at them as they ran into a car and drove away.
Emmanuel, Burris and White fled, tossing the gun and taking refuge in Charlotte with help from Emmanuel’s mother and sister. Giddens was pronounced dead at Piedmont Medical Center.
Three days later, Burris and White turned themselves in to police. Emmanuel was arrested on unrelated warrants in connection with several 2013 drive-by shootings that police say stem from an escalating feud between 715 FAM and two rival gangs: 901 KOB and the Southside Bloods.
While in custody, a police detective unaware that Emmanuel was a murder suspect made a deal with Emmanuel that 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett would drop his charges if the suspect divulged information about 715 FAM. Court documents and testimony from Brackett established that the deal was made before the detective realized Emmanuel was identified as a suspect in Giddens’ death and, at the time, was not considered a primary participant in many of 715 FAM’s activities.
At the time of the deal, police didn’t know Emmanuel was suspected as the gunman because they were looking for a shooter named “Jay,” Thompson said. Officers compiled a photo lineup of people known to associate with Burris and White. The classmate and another victim identified Emmanuel as the shooter, and he matched descriptions witnesses gave police of the man who ran after the victims. Burris and White cooperated with authorities and also identified Emmanuel as the gunman, Thompson said.
White has already pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact and will serve 10 years in prison as a result of a deal he struck with prosecutors that he would testify against Emmanuel should he go to trial. Though Emmanuel has pleaded guilty, that deal will hold. Charges against Burris are pending.
Last Friday, Emmanuel rejected a plea offer from prosecutors. Instead, he told a judge he wanted to proceed to trial and risk a lifetime prison sentence. By Monday morning, he changed his mind.
“How do you plead to these charges?” Couch asked Emmanuel in court.
“Guilty,” Emmanuel replied.
“To all four of the charges?” the judge questioned.
“Yes, sir,” Emmanuel answered.
Emmanuel, a former Charlotte warehouse employee and the father of a newborn girl, will remain in custody at the York County Detention Center until sentencing. His charges in connection with several drive-by shootings are pending. If he pleads guilty to those charges, a judge will not add more time to his prison sentence, said Judge Couch and Tyler Burns, Emmanuel’s lawyer.
Burns said he was unsure what changed Emmanuel’s mind about the plea offer, but he called the decision a “good resolution for the case.”
“He’s going to be all right,” said Pamela St. Hill, Emmanuel’s mother. “God’s got him.”