Friday, November 27, 2020

Pizza Delivery Driver Assaulted, Fights Back

Ambush on Avery Place Lane

Written by Robert A. Waters

At 10:25 P. M., on March 7, 2009, dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call from pizza delivery driver Christopher Steven Miller:

Dispatcher: Lexington County 9-1-1.

Miller: Yeah, I’ve just been robbed. Shots fired.

Miller (after a brief pause): Are you there?

Dispatcher: Yeah, I’m putting it in now. What’s the address?

Miller: On Avery Place. 332 Avery Place. Four of them tried to rob me. I shot one. He’s going to need an ambulance.

Dispatcher: Is he down there now?

Miller: He’s down. He’s hurt bad, too. They came running out of the woods. Dressed up. They had bandannas on their faces. I took off running. One came running after me. He jumped on top of me. By then I had my gun out and I shot him. I didn’t know if he was armed or not. He wouldn’t stop chasing me so…




Avery Place Lane, a quiet residential street, lay a quarter mile from Irmo High School in Columbia, South Carolina. A few minutes earlier, someone had placed a call to the Pizza Hut on Irmo Drive requesting two large, thin-crust pizzas with extra cheese. The price was $24.95. Two men, Paul Andrew Sturgill, 17, and Jason Todd Beckham, 18, waited on the sidewalk outside the dark, currently-unoccupied home. Carlos Renard Dates, 20, and Justin Towan Roundtree, 18, stood in a patch of woods on the other side of the road.

Christopher Steven Miller, 43, had a wife and five-year-old daughter. He’d worked for ten years as a pizza delivery driver, four years for Pizza Hut. While the restaurant had a policy that forbade employees from being armed, many drivers ignored the rule. Being out on the dark streets at night with even a small amount of cash is dangerous—Miller had concealed a Taurus .45-caliber pistol in a fanny pack.

Deputies arrived to find Sturgill lying on the ground. Miller stood nearby, bleeding from the nose. A small crowd had gathered, watching. Witnesses informed detectives that, after the shooting, three other suspects had run back through the woods toward a condominium complex a few hundred yards away. Cops soon had the names of the three and began tracking them down.

Sturgill, still alive, was transported to Palmetto Richland Hospital for treatment where he was pronounced deceased shortly after arriving. Doctors later said he had sustained bullet wounds to the chest and abdomen.

Miller was taken to the emergency room. He had bruises on his face and a broken nose. After treatment, Miller penned a statement to police in which he described the shooting and events leading up to it. “I had a delivery to 332 Avery Place, Columbia,” he wrote. “When I pulled up to the house, two white males were standing outside the house. I stepped out of my truck and asked one if he ordered that pizza and he said yes. He asked me if I had change for a hundred. I told him no, that I only carry twenty dollars…he pulled out his wallet but did not have any money in it…”

The bizarre interaction made Miller suspicious. He’d been robbed twice before and was on-guard. When he spied two men running toward him from a nearby wooded area across the street, he knew he was in trouble. Not only that, they had masks pulled up over their faces. “I realized I was going to be robbed,” he wrote, “[so I] started running. The one closest to me (Sturgill) started chasing me. I threw the pizza bag containing the pizzas at him hoping they would take the pizzas and leave. He continued to chase me. At that time, I started to retrieve my gun from my pack around my waist because I realized all four of them were chasing me.

“The one closest to me jumped on top of me and threw a punch from behind me hitting me in my right eye and [breaking] my glasses. I pushed him off of me and he threw another punch hitting me in the side of my head. I could not see because of him hitting me in the eye so I could not see if the other three were upon me yet. At that time, I had my gun out and fired two rounds striking the male on top of me…”




Police soon rounded up Beckham, Dates, and Roundtree. At first, the three claimed to be elsewhere when the shooting occurred. However, before long, each suspect cracked and the story emerged. Roundtree, who belonged to a local gang, had befriended the other three. None of the three had much of police record. In fact, Sturgill was an honor student with caring parents who gave him a curfew. He played in the high school jazz band and had already signed up to enlist in the U. S. Army. Dates and Beckham had had minor run-ins with the law, but nothing violent.

They decided to rob a pizza delivery driver and designated Sturgill and Beckham to meet him because “they were white” and they figured he wouldn’t be suspicious. (Without the influence of Roundtree, detectives alleged that the other three would never have become involved in the deadly heist.)

Beckham, Dates, and Roundtree were each charged with robbery and criminal conspiracy. Miller was cleared as his was a case of self-defense.

Miller released a statement, part of which read: “I would like to tell the family of Paul Sturgill how sorry I am about the death of their son. I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through and for that I am deeply sorry.

“When I arrived at the house, I was confronted by four individuals [and] believing I was about to be robbed, I ran. All four individuals chased after me. After running about a hundred feet, Mr. Sturgill caught up to me. He jumped on top of me, punching me several times in the face and head, I pushed him away but he continued to attack me. Knowing that the other three would soon arrive to help him and believing I would be gravely injured or killed, I pulled my weapon and fired two shots in self-defense. The other three ran off. I immediately called 911 from my cell phone and told the operator what happened and to send the police and an ambulance…”

Dates served four years in prison for armed robbery. The terms served by Roundtree and Beckham, if any, are not available.

Miller, fearing he would be terminated from Pizza Hut, resigned.

Special thanks to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department for sending me an incident report on this case.

Robert A. Waters is the author of Guns and Self-Defense with co-author Sim Waters. For 25 years, Waters has researched defensive shootings and written about hundreds of such cases. He has penned four books describing in detail many legitimate self-defense exploits. In addition, he has chronicled numerous self-defense cases on his blog, Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem.

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