Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:47 AM
Shooting victim seeks justice
As accused assailant charged with crime that doesn't exist, woman fights injury and fear
By Janet Conner-Knox | Times Staff Writer
Latecia Anderson, who was struck by a bullet on her way to work, wants the man who shot her charged with attempted murder.
But she believes after meeting with Nash County prosecutors that accused man’s charges may be downgraded to aggravated assault. While she continues to fight the physical injuries and the fear the Sept. 7 shooting has injected in her life, she’s starting to believe justice will never be served in this case — or worse, that injustice will be served.
Tyler Allen Pridgen, 20, of Hatcher Lane in Wilson, was arrested in September and charged with attempted second-degree murder, a charge that The Times has learned doesn’t exist in North Carolina.
In the 2000 case of State v. Coble, the N.C. Supreme Court found that, "a crime denominated as ‘attempted second-degree murder’ does not exist under North Carolina law.”
The case against Pridgen is set to go before a grand jury in June.
"I haven’t been the same since I was shot,” Anderson said. "I have had a hard time understanding the (legal) process. It it very difficult to get any information about my case. I’m not sure if I have any input on what happens.”
But Rocky Mount attorney Larry Gulley, who represents Pridgen, said as far as he knows, his client is still charged with attempted second-degree murder.
Gulley said he could not talk about the case.
"It would be improper for me to talk about an impending case at this point,” Gulley said.
Anderson met with Assistant District Attorney Bill Wolf.
Nash County prosecutors told The Times they couldn’t discuss the specifics of the case.
Anderson was shot in her right arm a few doors down from her home on Sugar Hill Road north of Wilson. She was riding her Kawasaki 900 motorcycle to work. Anderson’s family lives on the Wilson/Nash county line, and Nash County sheriff’s deputies investigated the shooting.
For hours, Anderson thought a bike malfunction had caused her injury, even as she continued to bleed uncontrollably.
She was told at the hospital that it was a bullet responsible for the hole in her arm.
Nash County Sheriff’s Deputy L.J. Bryant described the projectile as a .17-caliber bullet in his report.
ATTORNEY WEIGHS IN
Attorney Darryl G. Smith said all crime victims should be able to know about the prosecutorial process so they can be aware of the different possible outcomes.
Smith, a prosecutor in Durham for years and now a Wilson attorney, said there is a lot of room for discretion when charges are brought against a person.
"The law officer asks the magistrate for a warrant,” Smith said. "The prosecutor, of course, can submit something different to the grand jury by way of an indictment or move to amend the pleading before a district court judge. So there is discretion by the police, by the magistrate, by the prosecutor, the district court judge and ultimately the superior court judge, as to what charges are brought.”
Someone is charged with an "attempted” crime if the act isn’t carried out and is thwarted by intervention of some means, he said. If not for the intervention, the crime could have been completed.
Second-degree attempted murder is not in state statutes, but there is a provision for someone to be charged with attempting to commit a crime, he said.
"There is a provision under that law for punishment for an attempt to commit a crime,” Smith said.
If a person shoots someone and the victim didn’t die — and ordinarily would have died — that shooter may have intended to kill and there is malice presumed from the shooting, Smith said. The question is whether premeditation and deliberation can be presumed.
"That is a question for the jury to decide if it goes to trial,” Smith said. "But you usually don’t shoot people unless you intend to kill them. In Ms. Anderson’s case, she did get shot, according to the article I read. And she didn’t die. So, it’s not a homicide or it’s not a murder. It’s an attempt to commit a murder. When you shoot somebody, you usually intend to kill them. Malice is presumed from the fact of loading a gun and pulling a trigger.”
In the sheriff’s report, the other man who was present during the shooting, Bradley Roger Parker, 25, of Sugar Hill Road outside Wilson, said he was standing with Pridgen when the shooting took place. Parker, who doesn’t face any charges in this case, said Anderson was on her motorcycle.
Pridgen and Parker had been drinking since 10 p.m. the night before while they were prepping a deer, according to the Nash County deputy’s incident report.
Parker said a motorcycle came screaming down the road between 5 and 5:30 a.m., the report states.
"Tyler then said, ‘I am going to teach that girl a lesson,’” according to the report.
"Brad (Parker) then states that Tyler (Pridgen) fired the gun back to the south, possibly in the location where the girl and motorcycle were,” the report reads. "Brad stated that he was not exactly sure where the shot traveled, but it very possible that it did strike the girl on the motorcycle. Brad then stated he later saw car lights in the area where the girl possibly stopped the bike around 6 a.m. The two stayed up until 8 a.m. and then went inside his home and got into bed.”
Pridgen threw the rifle in a field beside Parker’s garage, the report said.
Deputies recovered a Marlin model 917 .17-caliber rifle with a scope. The gun had two live rounds inside, according to the report.
‘MAKES YOU WONDER’
Smith said it’s difficult to determine a motive in the shooting from the "teach that girl a lesson” statement.
"Teaching a lesson has often been smiling at a clerk, or registering to vote or moving into a neighborhood, or trying to shop at a place, or coming into the front door of a business establishment,” Smith said. "We have a context to draw from of what might have been the intent of someone that would make such a statement and directing it in reference to one of a different race.”
There are a lot of unknowns in this case, Smith said.
"I’m not prosecuting this case and I don’t know what other information prosecutors have to consider without any further explanation of ‘I’m going to teach her a lesson,’” Smith said. "The victim, Ms. Anderson, made a comment that she had a helmet on and how did they know it was a she? Whether they were familiar with her or knew her, or whether she did something they didn’t like, or was doing something they didn’t like, and what lesson they thought shooting her would teach — that’s not a conventional instrument of education. That is an instrument of death.”
Smith wonders if the defendants thought shooting her would be enlightening or educational to Anderson or others in a similar set of circumstances.
"It makes you wonder whether we’ve come as far as some think we have in race relations,” Smith said. "It’s a sad and tragic situation when somebody thinks that it’s their prerogative to shoot somebody. It’s scary. It’s chilling. I hope the prosecutor does his job in holding him accountable under the law.”
Anderson already has faced two surgeries. She isn’t sure if she will require more.
Her life has not returned to normal, she said.
"She doesn’t eat or sleep,” said her mother, Towanda Anderson. "She still can’t move some of her fingers.”
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