Chad Merrill and Jerrell Douglas were sitting together inside the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge in York, Pennsylvania, early Saturday when a third man entered and allegedly began directing racial slurs at Douglas, who is black, police say.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the third man, James Saylor, was quickly thrown out for his behavior, which allegedly included using the n-word — but not before Merrill, who is white, urged his friend Douglas not respond to the abuse, according to the York Daily Record.
“He didn’t want people hating each other, or the world being segregated the way it is, with the racism you see all over the news,” Merrill’s brother, Richard Merrill, told The Washington Post. “The world wants to keep everything segregated and he would rather have seen everybody get along.”
Police say Merrill then went outside to talk to Saylor in his truck in the parking lot, but as he approached him, Saylor allegedly fatally shot him in the chest.
Merrill, 25, was the father of a five-month-old boy.
Saylor, 24, fled but was arrested at his parents’ home on suspicion of criminal homicide, according to the Daily Record. He is being held without bond at the York County jail and does not currently have an attorney named to represent him in the case.
Merrill’s friends and family, who have created a GoFundMe page to help benefit his young son, Layton, have taken to social media with heartfelt tributes to Merrill and his actions in defense of his friend, who according to Fox 43 died an hour after he was shot at York Hospital.
“To die defending honor, justice, love and compassion makes Chad a true hero in my eyes,” wrote Stacy Allen. “This is the very example of how people must be courageous and stand up when they see something wrong in the world.”
Darrick Hines offered “deepest condolences” to Merrill’s family, writing: “I am a 49yo African America Man and a father to a 20yo son. Mr. Chad Merrill is a HERO for protecting/defending his African American friend against racist hatred. He reminds me so much of my own son. My wife and I have raised our children to never look away when you see someone in need of help or protection.”
Brother Richard Merrill wrote on the page: “It is truly amazing that my brother’s story has touched so many of you enough to help his son out like this. My brother was a hero and an amazing father. I wish so bad he were still with us so he could continue being the amazing man he was. We were and still are so proud of him.”
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It was not clear whether Merrill and Saylor previously knew each other, or what words they may have exchanged before the fatal shooting.
Police say that after Saylor was made to leave the bar, surveillance video from outside showed him trying to get into a vehicle other than his own, after which he pulled a gun from his waistband and fired a shot in the direction of the lounge, Hellam Township Police Chief J. Douglas Pollock told the Daily Record.
Saylor then located his own vehicle and was sitting in it when Merrill came outside and approached him, police say. Merrill allegedly was struck by a bullet fired from the window from a distance of about two feet.
“I have had so many people message me and tell me how amazing he was, and is, for what he did,” Merrill’s brother Richard posted on the GoFundMe page. “I even had one guy who said he was racist tell me my brother’s story has changed the way he views people now and [he] is going to stop the hatred.”