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NO CHARGES: Brooklyn Avenue shooting was self defense, D.A. says

The shooting that killed a 48-year-old man on July 3 was an act of self-defense and won’t result in charges against the shooter, District Attorney Greg Newman announced today.


Newman and city Police Chief Herbert Blake held a news conference to announce the outcome of the investigation. When police first notified Newman of the shooting that killed James Franklin "Pup" Stepp III, officers let the D.A. know that “an issue of self-defense” had come up.
“They wanted to be very cautious not to rush to judgment and charge anybody with anything until they had a real good idea of what occurred,” Newman said. “The police department put together a very comprehensive investigation. They’ve been very cautious, they’ve been very thorough and I feel we have as complete a picture of the events what occurred as we’re going to have.”
In reviewing the investigation, talking to officers, reviewing an autopsy and watching surveillance video, he determined that Greg Carl Spinella, 36, of Fletcher, was justified in shooting Stepp.
“I don’t expect that they are going to like that. It’s going to be difficult for them to process. I understand. But we live in a world of evidence. We have to deal with the facts as we have them.”
As state law spells out, “All of our people have the right to defend themselves against aggressive behavior,” he added, “especially if they feel that they’re lives are in danger or they are in danger of great bodily injury.”
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“In this particular case, facts are compelling to support self-defense and to support the fact that Mr. Spinella was justified in doing what he had to do,” he said. Stepp’s son did something that angered Spinella. When the son came back, Spinella told him to leave. Then the father, James Franklin Stepp III, drove onto the business property. Stepp punched him “very forcefully,” knocking him down to the ground face down. “We have security video that shows that the victim was on top of Mr. Spinella.” Another man tried to break the fight up. Still on the ground, Spinella was able to pull a pistol from a holster in the small of his back and fired three times at Stepp. Stepp stood up, clutched his chest, where he had been shot Another bullet, the fatal shot, entered Stepp’s pelvic region. Stepp was pronounced dead at Mission Hospital in Asheville. “He did say he fired it as much as it would fire and it was three times. He was still on the ground when all this occurred.” Spinella had a license to carry the handgun, Newman said.

Spinella told officer he thought he was going to die, “that he did not think he was going to survive this,” Newman said.
Spinella is still receiving treatment for head injuries he suffered in the fight. He was on his business property, facing an aggressor, Newman said. Two eyewitnesses, including former Hendersonville police officer Travis Rector, and Stepp’s son, gave statements to investigators.
“It was hot, tempers were high. People were upset. But the law supports what this man did. It’s difficult. It’s tragic yes. This is not the way we want people to handle their disputes. The facts are compelling that this is an act of defense.”

Newman said his office would not release the surveillance video, citing state law and the fact that the film provided an incomplete picture of what happened.

Members of Stepp's family had demanded in Facebook posts that the case be removed to the SBI because a former police officer was a witness. The family members protested outside the Grove Street Courthouse, saying that Spinella in their view should have been charged.

"We understand the laws of self-defense, the Second Amendment, we're not concerned about that," someone speaking forthe family said outside the courthouse. In a video posted on WLOS-TV, she added that Spinella had threatened to kill James Stepp's son, Jimmy. "Those statements were not followed up on. ... The idea that he did not know what to expect, that he didn't know who this person was — not factual. He was looking for self-defense. He was looking for something to happen and something did happen. And now he's trying to claim defense and get away with murdering somebody. ... It should have been investigated further and we are going to continue to investigate further and getting justice for Pup."