Trial in slaying outside Hellam Twp. bar begins

James Saylor's attorney doesn't contest that his client's actions led to the death of Chad Merrill outside a Hellam Township bar in July 2018, but he said Saylor never went to the bar to pick fights.

George Margetas, Saylor's attorney, said his client was "extremely wasted" and had no memory of the incident that left a Lower Windsor Township man dead.

Still, first deputy district attorney Seth Bortner argued Saylor's level of intoxication didn't matter.

"Nothing that you are going to hear is going to legally excuse the actions he committed," Bortner said to jurors.

Saylor, now 25, had been using racial slurs against a black man at the bar and was kicked out, according to authorities. Merrill, the man's friend, was fatally shot by Saylor outside the bar, according to police.

James Saylor

Saylor's trial began Monday. He is charged with first- and third-degree murder, harassment, ethnic intimidation and accidents involving damage to a vehicle.

Bortner told jurors that Saylor arrived at the Red Rose Restaurant at 5370 Lincoln Highway about 12:40 a.m. July 21, 2018, by himself.

"Essentially James Saylor went to do two things: Have some drinks and start some fights," he said.

Merrill's friend Jerrell Grandison-Douglas came in shortly after Saylor and sat at the bar, according to Bortner. 

Saylor then said "Since when do we let (n—s) into the bar?" Bortner told jurors. Grandison-Douglas tried to calm things down and offered to buy Saylor a drink, but Saylor did not want that, according to Bortner.

Bar staff then removed Saylor from the bar, and Merrill, who was sitting near Grandison-Douglas, went up to Grandison-Douglas and comforted him, Bortner said.

Bortner said Saylor was in the parking lot and almost got in the wrong vehicle. Saylor pulled his gun out of his waistband and fired a shot at the building while he walked to his actual car, he said.

Saylor got into his truck, backed it up and shot Merrill, who had walked outside, according to Bortner.

Chad Merrill, 25, was fatally shot outside a bar in Hellam Township Saturday, July 21, according to police. Photo courtesy of GoFundMe.

"He shoots him from ... mere feet away," Bortner said.

Saylor then hit a vehicle driven by an Uber driver before fleeing the scene, Bortner said.

But Margetas said Saylor was not waiting for Merrill. Saylor had been removed from the bar and was provoked by someone on his way out, according to Margetas.

"To say that he sat there and waited for Mr. Merrill to come out ... is disingenuous," Margetas said.

More:Reason for fatal shooting outside Hellam Twp. bar still not known

More:Police: Shooter used racial slurs, was kicked out of bar before homicide

Margetas emphasized that what happened in the bar and outside of the bar were separate incidents.

He said Saylor had been drinking since about 1 or 2 that afternoon. Saylor, he said, blacked out before going to a McDonald's earlier that night.

Margetas added that Saylor told police he didn't know what he did the night before since he was drunk.

Merrill's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest, with the manner homicide, according to the York County Coroner's Office. He was 25.

Saylor's trial is expected to continue Tuesday, Sept. 24.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.