Lee Vs Epps
This is a case that cost 100s of thousands of dollars to defend and appeal. The laws that allow you to defend yourself have criteria that must be met in order to claim self-defense at trial. The case of Gyrell Lee Vs Quinton Epps started with an argument that led to the death of Jamieal Walker 23. Then led to multiple problems that ended up in the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
As a firearm owner, it is likely you purchased a firearm for self-defense. You may have received training and even learned the wording of the self-defense laws in your state. The problem is many people don’t understand that shooting in self-defense does not mean self-defense laws will be allowed in your case. There are many things that must be in place and even then, there is no guarantee.
We are asking our readers to comment on, what you might have done differently in this case? If reading this story has changed how you feel about the laws? As well as do you believe something could have been done to avoid the situation that caused this chain of events to take place?
Gyrell Lee Vs Quinton Epps
Quinton Epps 21 had approached Jamieal Walker who was outside at New Year’s Eve party. An argument between the two had taken place at which point Quinton left. A short time later Quinton returned and got into another argument with Jamieal. Once again Quinton left the party in an agitated state. Quinton decided to return to the party again but this time he brought some friends and he parked a few houses down the road and exited the vehicle with a firearm.
Not initially realizing that Quinton was armed this time. Jamieal and Gyrell Lee 24 approached the men, where Jamieal once again confronted Quinton. As a result of the heated argument, Jamieal punched Quinton in the face. At which point, Quinton grabbed the hoody of Jamieal, pulling him towards him, and shot him twice in the stomach. Jamieal fell to the ground and got back up and started running away. Quinton continued to shoot as Jamieal was running away. He then turned his firearm towards Gyrell in what appeared to be an attempt to shoot him as well.
Gyrell Lee’s Response
After the second confrontation with Quinton, Gyrell had gone to his car and got his firearm. He was not intending for Quinton to return or anticipating having to use his firearm. Instead, he felt it would be wise to have it on him based on what had already transpired. Under the “Stand Your Ground” law in N.C., Gyrell had the legal right to defend Jamieal once he was no longer the aggressor.
According to Gyrell’s statement, he was never able to get a clean shot off until Quinton was already in the process of pointing the firearm at him. At which point he shot multiple times, which led to the death of Quinton. Gyrell then made the mistake of leaving the scene and hiding his firearm under a trash can at his house. When the police arrived on the scene, they found Quinton laying on the street in the middle of a crowd. They later found Jamieal over 100 ft away dead from multiple gunshot wounds, which were traced to Quinton’s .45 caliber firearm.
During Quinton’s autopsy, they found multiple 9mm bullets. All of which led to Gyrell’s arrest and his conviction of 2nd-degree murder. It was said that more than 5 people were involved in the situation but only Gyrell was charged. No one was charged for the death of Jamieal. The witnesses had conflicting stories which are what likely led to his conviction.
During the trial Gyrell’s defense team presented evidence, eyewitness, his police interview, and taped telephone calls from the jail all of which supported Gyrell’s version of the events. The prosecution presented another version and an eyewitness to support their version. The prosecution witness testified that when Jamieal fell to the ground so did Quinton. At which point, Quinton continued shooting and Gyrell walked up to Quinton and shot him repeatedly while he was on the ground.
If true, Gyrell would not be able to claim self-defense. The witness also stated that Gyrell took part in the arguments as well. Again, that would mean he was not an innocent party prior to shooting his firearm. Which would mean, he could not claim self-defense under the legal definition of the “Stand Your Ground” law. The defenses eyewitness disputed these facts and Gyrell himself stated he was not part of the argument at any point.
The defense was able to show evidence that supported Gyrell’s claim of self-defense and he was able to use the “Stand Your Ground” law as his defense. The problem came in during the jury’s instructions. They were not informed that Gyrell had no duty to retreat, which meant that he had the legal right to be there and that he met the legal standard for self-defense. Because of this lack of instruction by the judge, the jury convicted him of second-degree murder. He was originally charged with 1st degree murder, but the jury was deadlocked and settled on 2nd degree, which he later appealed.
The appellate court upheld the conviction by citing two events that were wrongly interpreted at the time. First was the question of his legal right to be there. The appellate court determined that because it was not his home, vehicle, or business that he did not have a legal right to be there. Meaning that because it took place in the street he was not covered by the “Stand Your Ground” law. They also stated that because Gyrell chooses to arm himself instead of leaving, he somehow became the aggressor.
Understand that reasonableness is something that is used to determine your actions in self-defense. They may look at the events that led up to the self-defense and present that evidence to the jury. Reasonableness means that a reasonable person would have done the same thing under the same circumstances. If your actions were determined unreasonable then you cannot prove self-defense.
The error in this judgment was the fact that Gyrell was not part of the arguments that took place and he had no reason to believe he was in danger. It was not until Quinton had shot that he realized he was in a life-threatening situation. Even then his life was not in danger until Quinton pointed the firearm at him, at which point he shot in self-defense. There were other findings that the appellate court disagreed with as well. All of which, led them to uphold the conviction. The supreme court disagreed with their findings and overturned the conviction.
This case ended without a conviction but not before Gyrell was sent to prison and was serving time for 2nd degree murder. A murder trial will cost you well over 100k for your defense, and several hundred thousand in appeals. Gyrell made the mistake of not being the one to call 911 and starting his defense right away. He also left the scene and hid the firearm, which only made him look like he was guilty of a crime. While the appellate court was wrong about his duty to retreat, common sense should lead a person to remove themselves from a volatile situation.
A firearm will never ensure that you survive a gunfight. Guns do not come with shields that protect you. In fact, just the presence of a firearm increases the likely hood violence will result in someone’s death, including your own. Having the ability to defend yourself is crucial if you are ever involved in a violent encounter. The only way to increase your odds of survival is through training, regular practice, and situational awareness. Just like the only guaranteed way to ensure you will survive is by not being there in the first place.
Jamieal did not know he was entering into a gunfight and lost his life over a disagreement. Quinton did not know he was not the only person with a firearm and lost his life by thinking his firearm was a shield. Gyrell lost his freedom, suffered psychological damage, a media onslaught, and lost his friend because of his failure to recognize the situation he was in. Nobody won in this case and everyone would still be alive today if one person would have made the right decision.
In conclusion, this was not an ambush type of attack that normally happens in self-defense cases. This was a case of escalating violence that led to the deaths of two young men. It was not the firearm that caused this situation, it was the violence that one man was determined to have happened. As a firearm owner, you must ask yourself just how much money do you have to defend yourself afterward? If you are carrying a firearm to survive a violent encounter then you should be doing everything you can to avoid that violent encounter in the first place.
If you are shooting bullseyes at the range and that is your only training. Then you have done nothing to prepare yourself for a violent encounter. If you don’t have an attorney and you are not part of an organization like CCWSafe or the USCCA, then you have done nothing to prepare for the aftermath. Just because your state has a self-defense law, does not mean it will protect you when the time comes. You will need to learn what qualifies as self-defense. Things like the AOJ triangle by Massad Ayoob are taught and well known by many trained firearm owners.
Attorney’s like Andrew Branca also teach the 5 things that you must have to claim self-defense. Things like innocence, Imminence, proportionality, avoidance, and reasonableness. You must be prepared to be arrested and to be able to articulate how and why you determined lethal force was your only option. Always remember a jury is not going to be filled with your friends from the local gun club. A prosecutor is going to sell a story to a jury that can lead to a conviction and it does not have to be based on truth or facts. Check out more gun stories here.
RGD Reviews does not condone or promote violence. Instead, we support being able to defend yourself against a violent attack. It is our goal to inform our readers and students about the dangers of using a firearm in self-defense. As a result, we share all the information we can verify with our readers. As a certified firearms instructor, I don’t hold back information based on a paywall. You can’t replace live training but with information, you can help to keep yourself and your family safe until you can get training from an instructor in your area.