On Christmas 2016, Roger Grate and his nephew, Darrell Doctor, got into an argument that ended when Roger shot and killed his relative.
Prosecutors and Grate do not dispute those facts, but what remains fiercely in question are the circumstances that led to the shooting.
The state called it murder, Grate says he was standing his ground.
“I told the officer it was in self-defense,” Grate said in a Horry County courtroom on Monday. “I was just protecting myself.”
Grate and other family members gave their recollections of the holiday during a Stand Your Ground hearing before Horry County Judge Larry Hyman Jr. Police charged Grate, 52, with murder and he remains free on bond.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Helms said on Christmas police responded to a residence in the Loris area. Doctor was a guest at the Grate home and an argument began near the street.
Helms said Doctor was told to leave and tried to, but Grate shot him between the eyes.
Grate presented a different picture of the shooting, one where Doctor was the aggressor. Grate said he and his step-son, Gregory, got into an argument over presents for Gregory’s mother.
Doctor approached and Grate told his nephew to leave as it was between himself and Gregory.
Gregory and Doctor went to a truck, it was then that Doctor rushed at Grate with a hand in his pocket, the shooter said.
“That’s when I pulled out my gun and shot him,” Grate said.
Reflecting on the incident, Grate said he thought Doctor was going to shoot him, then added he didn’t know what his nephew intended and that he felt threatened.
“I wasn’t going to let him hurt me though,” he said.
Grate said he didn’t know if his nephew had a gun on him, but knew he owned one because he sold his nephew a firearm.
No witnesses testified that they saw Doctor with a gun.
After the shooting, Grate said he waited around to tell police what happened.
Grate said he was drinking during the day, but was not intoxicated at the time of the shooting. Toxicology reports showed Doctor had a blood alcohol content about twice the legal driving limit.
Gregory Grate testified that he was in a disagreement with his father when Doctor came up. He tried to get Doctor to relax and he and Doctor walked to a truck. As Gregory tried to get in the vehicle, Doctor left the vehicle and the shooting occurred, though Gregory said he did not see it.
Roger Grate’s daughter Carmen said that she saw Doctor “charge” at her father when she looked around for someone to help. As she scanned the area, the shot rang out. Hyman pressed Carmen Grate about what charging meant. While she couldn’t give a simple, detailed description, she did say that Doctor was not running, but approached in an aggressive manner.
The Grate family packed rows on each side of the courtroom -- some behind the shooter others behind the prosecution. Some of those that sat on the solicitor’s side cried as Roger described the killing.
Neither group was hostile towards the other and some on the prosecutor's side told Gregory goodbye as he left the courtroom.
James Grate, a relative who was present at the trial, testified for the state and said he saw Roger Grate slam Doctor against a car before the shooting. He said he never saw Doctor with a gun or acting aggressively.
“He did not threaten whatsoever,” James Grate said.
Roger Grate pulled out a gun and James Grate said he heard the gunshots.
When Roger Grate’s attorney Kia Wilson questioned James Grate, he admitted he provided a different statement to police on Christmas. In that statement, which was played in court, James Grate said Doctor had a gun. But, he said he recanted that statement and said his Monday testimony was accurate.
Solicitors will continue to present evidence on Tuesday as Hyman considers the Stand Your Ground case.