Andrew Dys

Rock Hill man gets 5 years for killing friend, 17, while playing with gun

The word “gun” was used, at least 30 times in a York courtroom Monday. The word that almost always comes with the word gun was used too: “died.”

And afterward, almost every time the words “gun” and “died” are used in court: “prison.”

This time it was five years of youthful offender prison for Robreece Pickett, 20, an alleged gang member who liked to look tough holding a gun and posing for pictures with drugs and money on social media.

But on Monday, Pickett was crying and walking out of court in shackles to serve a five-year prison sentence, as the mother of his dead friend wept.

On April 2, Pickett spent much of the day in Rock Hill waving an illegal .22-caliber pistol, along with his buddies. Many took turns holding the gun, prosecutors said. Pickett and others were in a gang, said Willy Thompson, 16th Circuit deputy solicitor, something in Rock Hill called the 901 KOB. It stands for Kash Over Broads. It stood Monday for what gangs always stand for – death and jail.

Pickett waved the illegal gun April 2 as others played video games. Pickett looked in the mirror and saw how tough he looked. Then the gun did what guns can do, and that was kill a teen sitting in a chair a few feet away.

Ja’Terreon Thorne, 17, was shot once in the chest. It hit an artery in his heart. He died outside next to a fence.

Pickett made up a story to police that a rival gang came by and shot Thorne before finally admitting guilt, because a third guy in the room with the two and the gun told the truth. Pickett has been in jail ever since.

Pickett pleaded guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter, two gun charges, and a possession of marijuana charge. He’ll serve time at a youthful offender prison. The manslaughter conviction has a maximum sentence of five years – that’s what Pickett got.

The drug charge and two weapon charges were considered time served since the April arrest.

When he killed his friend, Pickett was out on bond awaiting trial for another gun possession charge and holding marijuana. The same day, he had planned to go to a party in York with his friends. That was a party where a teenage mother from Rock Hill named E’Monnie Dixon, 17, was shot and killed.

In one night, two 17-year-olds were dead from bullets.

Dixon’s killer remains uncaught. Thorne’s killer stood shackled Monday in a York County courtroom.

Thorne’s mother, Tamika Douglas, asked for the maximum sentence in court because, she said, “My son had to take a life sentence.”

“I can only go to a cemetery to look at my child, to speak to my child,” Douglas said.

The great-grandmother of Thorne, Martha Douglas, stood like a queen in that courtroom and she looked at Judge Dan Hall, the prosecutor and Pickett, who shot the gun, and said the most profound words.

“I would like some answers,” Marthan Douglas said.

Nobody had any.

Except guns. Guns always give an answer. That answer is death.

Pickett’s lawyer, 16th Circuit Chief Public Defender Harry Dest, called what Pickett did “stupid” and “reckless” but Pickett is not a gang kingpin but a young man who made a tragic mistake.

“This was a tragic killing, the result of possession of a gun he should never have had,” Dest said.

But Pickett had the gun, and thought he was tough with the gun. He fired that gun, and it did what guns do: kill.

When Pickett spoke in court, he that Thorne was his friend and like a brother.

“It’s my fault for playing around with the gun,” Pickett said in court. “I never should have had the gun.,”

He finished: “My friend is gone because of me.”

Because of him, and the gun.