The night he killed a man, Ronald Reid spent eight hours in an interview room at the North Charleston Police Department — four hours on either side of midnight.
He was alone most of the time as he sat in a wheeled office chair. He wore blue hospital scrubs. His leg throbbed from a bullet wound. He hadn’t taken painkillers.
Police officers walked in and out. One presented him with papers. Reid signed away his right to remain silent. He let another officer swab his mouth for saliva and the DNA it contained. Several policemen listened to his story about what happened earlier that day, June 29.
He told it 17 times.
To him and his attorney, that’s not what a man guilty of murder would do. To the police and prosecutors, he was revising the events of that deadly day so they fit his argument of self-defense.
Each time he gave his account, he was ducking for the cover of a white pickup as a man waved a gun in front of Cycle Gear, a motorcycle equipment shop on Dorchester Road.
That’s when he heard it: Pow. Pow.
And he felt it: A bullet pierced one part of his right leg.
Two other men he knew suffered fatal wounds.
Reid, while seeking cover, drew his .380-caliber Smith & Wesson Bodyguard, a compact pistol. He channeled what he learned during a class he took before he applied for a concealed-weapons permit. He squared up to his target, aimed at the gunman’s chest and squeezed the trigger.
One bullet hit the man’s heart, and he crumpled. Reid figured that the man was dead before he hit the pavement.
The 44-year-old father of three doesn’t like telling that story. But he didn’t think he would have to repeat it again and again after that Saturday. He thought that the evidence and the witnesses would support his account.
But the police didn’t believe him. Detectives thought he had been involved in a skirmish between members of two rival motorcycle clubs, and if that were the case, he didn’t have the right to defend himself. Reid had shot the man, police said, who was just trying to defend his friend from Reid and others who had ganged up and beaten him.
Two months later, though, Reid still hasn’t seen the evidence of the crime he’s accused of. The main reason the police said they locked him up: his own story.
He repeated the story to The Post and Courier when the newspaper sat in on a videoconference call with his attorney, Andy Savage. He maintained that he walked into a skirmish that he had nothing to do with, and shot Maurice Horry only when he thought his own life was threatened.
“I don’t understand why I’m being held accountable,” he said. “I followed the rules. I did not intentionally leave my house wanting to shoot anyone. I never imagined doing it.”
After 61 days in jail, Reid left Friday when a judge pointed out the self-defense question and set his bail at $100,000. What’s likely to follow are more hearings to determine whether Reid was within his rights under South Carolina’s “stand your ground” laws when he pulled the trigger.
Reid’s fate will hinge on what happened before anyone drew a gun.
About 3 p.m. that afternoon, Reid rode his Harley-Davidson Road King near Dorchester Road alongside one of his best friends, 36-year-old Theodore Waymyers.
They wore vests bearing a patch of the Wheels of Soul Motorcycle Club. The two had joined the group when it came to the Charleston area a year ago. For its dozen members, the club brought long rides with friends, canned-food drives and merrymaking.
The riding buddies were headed to a club cookout, but Reid knew they couldn’t stay long: He wanted to get home to his wife, who was caring for their infant grandson.
They decided to run an errand first. Reid wanted to buy a helmet at Cycle Gear. He needed it because he had planned to ride with his son to a softball tournament out of state.
The parking lot seemed ordinary — motorcycles parked outside a motorcycle shop. But when Reid and Waymyers stepped inside the store, Reid said, they didn’t know what they were walking into.
He saw a commotion off to his right and stood still near the entrance.
“What the (expletive) is going on here?” Reid said, recalling the only words he remembers saying.
He later learned what police said was happening.
Wheels of Soul bikers had seen two members of the Real Kings Motorcycle Club ride by their cookout and rev their engines. They followed the two riders to the store and confronted them about the show of disrespect.
Carlos Davis and Barry Stinson, two Wheels of Soul members who each had at least a half-dozen arrests in their pasts, beat up Horry’s friend, the police said.
Reid wanted to stay out of it, he said — even though Davis and Stinson wore the same vest he had donned. But the skirmishing people came toward him like a wave. Someone flailed wildly. He was elbowed in the mouth, so Reid said he responded with one or two jabs of his own.
He was standing feet away from the metal detectors at the front door when he saw the man with a gun. Horry yelled and shook the pistol. Police said Horry was nervous and was shouting for the men to leave his friend alone.
Reid still didn’t know what was happening, he said. He bolted through the doorway and darted to the left. That’s when he heard the shots and felt the pain in his leg.
When the bullet that he fired hit Horry’s heart, Reid thought the man died.
But police have said that Horry might have uttered something after he was wounded. If that’s true, they said, Horry could have been able to fire his own gun, also in self-defense.
Paramedics took Reid to a hospital, where doctors treated his wound. He soon left in a police car.
Officers put Reid in the interview room around 8 p.m., five hours after the shootings. His interrogation was recorded on video, which his attorney shared with The Post and Courier.
Reid thought he had acted lawfully that day, so he was eager to talk.
To get a concealed-weapons permit four years ago, he completed a state-required class at the ATP Gun Shop and Range in Summerville. To pass a range test, he needed to be on the mark with at least 35 of the 50 bullets he fired at a paper target featuring a silhouetted man. He hit it 48 times.
As he prepared to talk with the authorities, he recalled what he had learned in the class: Be truthful if you ever use deadly force.
An investigator walked into the interview room. He told Reid about Cycle Gear’s “excellent” surveillance system that caught the entire fight on video.
Reid then told his story.
When the investigator left, Detective Christopher Terry walked into the room. Not only was the fight on video, but the camera captured who said what, Terry said.
“Be careful,” Terry warned him. “I know what happened.”
Reid insisted that he had said nothing to instigate a fight, and he told his story again.
“I had no intention of doing harm,” he told Terry. “I didn’t know that was going on when I arrived at the store.”
He grew frustrated. If the interrogators had seen video of the melee, he asked himself, why didn’t they believe him?
At one point, he limped out of the office chair and tried to re-enact his motions at the time Horry shot at him.
“Do you remember that?” he asked.
But the detectives hadn’t seen the video. It didn’t exist. They had used a bluffing tactic that authorities commonly used to goad a suspect into telling the truth.
“It makes it look like you’re separating yourself from it,” Terry said. “That’s what suspects do.”
Reid never changed his story, Terry later said during court testimony, except to adjust the extent of his punching when the commotion approached him inside the store.
After 4 a.m. the day after the shootings, Reid stood in the interview room as officers tightened handcuffs around his wrists.
‘People I love’
Jennifer Reid waited outside police headquarters as detectives questioned her husband, the man she called her high school sweetheart.
She had been assured that the process was just a formality, but as the minutes turned to hours, she began to wonder.
“An officer said he did what any man would do in that situation,” Jennifer Reid said. “They just needed to talk to him.”
She left to get some sleep at her home in Summerville. She learned of her husband’s arrest when jail workers called to ask what medications he needed.
Reid suffers congestive heart failure, a disease that he said would make it difficult for him to participate in a fist fight. A defibrillator implanted in his chest jolts his heart if it can’t keep up.
Two months after the shooting, Reid’s health is one subject that popped up in the videoconferencing session with Savage, his attorney.
They talked about his case, his chances of freedom, the evidence that the attorney’s investigators found.
The investigators gathered video from a bus stop and from the auto garage across the street, where the Wheels of Soul bikers were having a cookout. They didn’t notice any signs of Reid at the get-together said to be the source of the dispute.
Savage told him that police have no evidence of him being at Cycle Gear, except “for what came out of your own mouth.” Detectives showed a photo lineup to a witness, who picked No. 5. His photo was No. 4.
They talked about his emotions. “I relive what happened every day,” Reid said.
They talked about what people thought of him. “I’ve always tried to keep any image of myself to be friendly,” he said. “I enjoy people. I enjoy laughter. I’m not like the police officers are saying.”
They talked about life behind bars. Reid, who has only one misdemeanor conviction for disorderly conduct 23 years ago, wasn’t used to jail.
Soft-spoken and quick to laugh, he told stories about the roommate he had shared a cell with. The alcoholic had been arrested for urinating in his own driveway, and his family refused to post his $250 bail in hopes that he would sober up.
The cellmate struggled physically and mentally. On a recent night, he removed his diaper and urinated on the cell wall. Reid cleaned up after the man and changed his diaper. The man’s wife finally posted his bail last week, but Reid missed his company.
Reid’s tendency to steer clear of jail food whittled his stocky figure by 30 pounds. He has seen what other inmates will do for treats from the jail canteen. One man was beaten bloody over a honeybun and some potato chips.
“I don’t want anyone to live this way,” he said. “If I could afford to buy everybody food, I would.”
The conference call came Thursday, just after a magistrate ruled that the murder charge should continue toward trial. Reid apologized to his wife for not being with her that day — the birthday they share. It was her 40th, his 44th.
He thanked her for the cards she had sent. One from his grandson unfolded and stretched across his entire arm span. It called him “the best grandpa in the world.”
But he asked his wife to keep his mail at home. Getting mail in jail made him think about being there forever.
“You can lock me up, but lock me in with my wife and kids,” he said. “I just want to be around the people I love.”
The next day, he got his wish. A judge, citing how Reid’s self-defense argument might hinder his prosecution, granted him bail and told him to stay home.
He stepped out of the jail. He hugged his wife, his children, his 1-year-old grandson.
With his left arm around his wife’s waist, he walked away from the plain concrete facade. He didn’t look back.
“Never again,” he said. “Never again.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
Ronald Reid is released from jail Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, after posting bail on the murder charge he faces in a June 29 shooting outside Cycle Gear in North Charleston. Reid has said that he was acting in self-defense. (ANDREW KNAPP/STAFF)×