South Carolina

Taylors teen charged with stealing gun used to kill SC police officer

Trystan David Merritt
Trystan David Merritt Greenville County Detention Center

A Taylors teenager has been charged with stealing a gun that 17-year-old Deontea Mackey used to shoot and kill Greenville police officer Allen Jacobs, authorities said Monday.

Trystan David Merritt, 17, is charged with unlawful carrying of a pistol, and is being held at the Greenville County Detention Center without bond, according to a warrant and jail records. Merritt was arrested on March 23 by the State Law Enforcement Division.

The charge is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Solicitor Walt Wilkins said his office is pursuing additional charges — possession of a stolen weapon and possession of a weapon by individual under the age of 18 — against Merritt in connection with the gun.

"The significance of the possession of a weapon for a person under the age of 18 is that it is a felony and it does carry a maximum possible penalty of five years," Wilkins said. Unlawful carrying of a weapon is a misdemeanor and carries up to one year, Wilkins said.

Merritt is accused of possessing a Glock model 23 .40 caliber pistol that was stolen from his grandfather's home, Wilkins said at a news conference with Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller.

The gun was taken from Merritt's grandparents' home during their going-away party on March 5, said Brandy Merritt, Trystan's mother.

Merritt had a previous relationship with Mackey, Wilkins said. Days after the gun was stolen, Merritt went to an apartment and left the gun there with Mackey and another person. When Merritt came back the next day, the gun was gone, Wilkins said.

Merritt also is charged with petit larceny, according to Wilkins and jail records.

Brandy Merritt said Trystan's grandparents did not realize the gun was missing until the weekend of the murder-suicide. Even then, they didn't suspect their grandson. Trystan's parents began to suspect he knew something about the case because of his interest in the news of the shooting. Brandy Merritt's husband contacted police and told them he may have information connected to the deaths of Jacobs and Mackey.

Trystan Merritt turned himself in March 23, his mother said.

"It's a horrible situation for the families involved," Brandy Merritt told The Greenville News. "Obviously, if we would've had any idea or control over the situation, this may not have happened. But unfortunately, we had no idea that the gun was even stolen or taken until his grandparents went to move because they retired to Florida. And they were packing up the house and all of a sudden that's when they realized that it was obviously gone. It's a sad situation. Very sad."

Police were searching for Mackey on March 18 in the Nicholtown community because they heard Mackey, a convicted felon, was trying to acquire a gun. Police said that Mackey fatally shot Jacobs during a foot pursuit. Mackey then shot himself. Wilkins and Miller reviewed the SLED file and confirmed that the incident was a murder-suicide.

Jacobs and his partner, Officer Erik Bryant, were investigating Mackey because they learned he was looking for a firearm to replace one that was stolen from him.

"It's important to note that he had no legal authority to possess a handgun," Miller said. "He was also looking to purchase marijuana for resale."

Miller said police learned that Mackey abruptly ceased trying to obtain a gun the week of his death. Jacobs and Bryant began to keep surveillance on Mackey's home March 18. Mackey exited his home on Cheney Street, unknowingly walked toward the officers, saw them and reversed course, Miller said.

"This behavior was different from an encounter less than a week prior where Mackey approached them on a traffic stop and had a brief but pleasant exchange of greetings," Miller said.

The officers drove to Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church and approached Mackey in the parking lot March 18. Jacobs twice asked Mackey if he had anything illegal on him, Miller said. Mackey then fled.

"In the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that Mackey was either in possession of a firearm or drugs and that they had the lawful authority to detain Mr. Mackey and conduct a Terry frisk for weapons and investigate further," Miller said.

Jacobs pursued Mackey on foot toward Rebecca Street and communicated his actions via radio. As they rounded the rear of a residence, Mackey fired seven shots. Jacobs was wounded in the left forearm, his right thigh, his chest and in the back of the head.

Mackey fled toward the Swamp Rabbit Trail and Cleveland Park and encountered an officer. The teen then tried to run in another direction and saw two more officers. Cornered, he then shot himself.

The situation unfolded in about 10 minutes.

Miller said Jacobs' body camera was damaged after he was shot. SLED and the FBI were unable to determine if there was any video from the body camera.

Miller said police are waiting for phone records from Mackey and his mother. She told SLED and police investigators that the mother and son spoke right before he killed himself.

He told her, "he shot a cop, it was bad, and he was going to kill himself," Miller said.

The SLED investigation reveals that police did not fire their weapons and that all police ammunition was accounted for.

Miller said he hoped to bring clarity and transparency to the incident at the news conference.

"Our organization needs to move forward," Miller said. "The community needs to move forward. And it is our hope and our prayer that we can do so in a way that, quite frankly, helps to build bridges rather than tear them down."

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