Michael Tyler Walters, 18, has beenn arrested for murdering two people that family says were trying to rob him
Gunfire interrupted a meeting between three young men Friday night, leaving two of them dead and the surviving member of the party in jail charged with double first-degree murder.
And while police decline to say what brought the trio together on a quiet connector road in southeast Gastonia a look at their backgrounds may offer a glimpse into what led them to cross paths.
Michael Anthony Rice Jr. of Gastonia and Jerry Lenneil Richardson of Kings Mountain – both 24 years old - died in a hail of gunfire while sitting inside a 1994 Honda Accord that neither of them owned, according to police.
“There were multiple shots,” said Gastonia Police Capt. Steve Duncan. “I don’t know exactly how many.”
Their car was stopped in a graveled area just off the road in front of the home Michael Tyler Walters shared with his sister and other family members.
Walters was not hurt in the exchange that exploded at 7:17 p.m. on the road that serves mostly residential commuters traveling between South New Hope and Lowell Bethesda roads.
But now the man with a sparse criminal history, who just turned 18 on May 8, faces two counts of first-degree murder. Walters remains in Gaston County Jail without bond awaiting a first court appearance Monday.
“We feel like we have everyone involved and we don’t think it was a random act,” Duncan said Saturday. “We do feel like we will be able to piece together what happened.” Walters’ sister said Saturday her brother acted in self-defense. He was at home watching her two young children at the time of the shooting, she said.
“He was protecting his life and protecting my children,” Shannon Lombardo said. “They came with guns. They came to rob him. That’s what it looks like.” She said she did not know how her brother knew the two men.
Walters used a semi-automatic handgun to fire into the Honda while outside the car, Duncan said, although at some point he may have been inside the car. Police seized more than one gun from the scene, but declined to say whether either Rice or Richardson had weapons.
The three men knew one another, but police still have questions about their relationship and whether it was a friendly one or if it involved an ongoing dispute, Duncan said. Rice and Richardson came to the home together, but there were conflicting statements about how long they’d been there before the shooting began, Duncan said.
He said he had not heard that Rice and Richardson had come to the house to buy drugs, although he deflected a question about whether drugs were found at the scene. “That’s another part of the investigation,” Duncan said about whether police confiscated drugs. “We’re not going to release any information on the evidence we found.”
Walters criminal history dates back to December 2011 when he was charged with felony larceny related to the theft of copper from an air conditioning unit. However, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed that charged in March 2013 because of insufficienct evidence, so he has no conviction.
Both Rice and Richardson have criminal histories. In fact, Rice might have been in jail – but still alive - if he had shown up in Gaston County Court on Friday like he was supposed to. Rice failed to appear in court Friday on charges of violating his probation and a felony marijuana charge.
Rice also had at least six outstanding warrants against him in Gaston County related to marijuana, including two related to its sale. Those charges taken out on May 17 of this year all date back to offenses in July and August 2012, but they had not yet been served on Rice.
Details about those charges were not immediately available.Rice was on probation after pleading guilty in Gaston County in February 2013 to drug charges dating back to March 2012 offenses. He’d also been given a probationary sentence after pleading guilty to drug charges in Gaston County in January 2011.
Richardson has a lesser criminal history. On April 13, he was charged with resisting an officer, identity theft related to financial fraud and running a red light. Those cases had not been resolved, but only the identity theft charge was a felony, according to court records.
The sister of an 18-year-old charged with killing two people says her brother was trying to protect his family from people who likely wanted to rob him. The Gaston Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/11OfASp) that the sister of Michael Tyler Walters says he was watching her two young children at the time of the shooting.
Shannon Lombardo said she didn't know how her brother knew the two men. Walters is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Michael Anthony Rice Jr. of Gastonia and Jerry Lenneil Richardson of Kings Mountain, both 24. He's being held in the Gaston County Jail.
Police say the two men were shot Friday inside a car that was parked near the home that Walters shared with his sister and other family members.
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