LUMBERTON — The district attorney says there remains a possibility of gun charges related to the shooting death last week of Zachary Meares, but he is waiting on results of some testing.
Johnson Britt also corrected some misinformation that is circulating in the death of the 17-year-old.
Britt said the weapon was not a handgun, but was a .22-caliber rifle that had been sawed off. He said the stock had been sawed off, not the barrel, and that it was at the SBI lab and would be measured to see if it was under 26 inches in length, which in North Carolina would make it a “weapon of mass destruction.” If it is, then he said charges would be brought.
But, according to Britt, the gun does not belong to Jason O’Neil Bass, 17, of Lumberton, who has been charged with voluntary manslaughter in Meares’ death and is free on $20,000 bail. He said the gun belongs to another youth who was with Bass, the former boyfriend of Meares’ sister. The Robesonian knows the youth’s name, but is not publishing it because he has not been charged with a crime.
Britt pointed out as well it is not illegal for the youths to have the weapon because state law regarding age has to do with handguns, not rifles and shotguns that are commonly used for hunting. He said that there is no evidence that anyone violated the state’s concealed-weapons law because it can’t be determined if the weapon was concealed in the vehicle at any time.
Britt said that Meares was shot twice, not three times as has been widely reported. He said the fatal shot struck him in the neck and that there was a non-lethal wound to his face.
Britt on Friday spent two and a half hours meeting with Meares’ family members, who have been publicly critical of him because he did not charge Bass with murder. Britt said he believed that the meeting was helpful and some misunderstandings were cleared up.
Meares was shot to death on Nov. 28 in St. Pauls.
There had been a confrontation in Lumberton when Meares tried to get his sister’s cell phone back from a youth she used to date. The youth, Bass and another youth left in a pickup truck and a high-speed chase followed north on Interstate 95 that ended on East Broad Street in St. Pauls.
According to Britt, witnesses said Meares tried to force his way into the truck, but could not, and then he jumped into its bed. The driver of the truck manuevered it in an effort to toss Meares out of the bed, but could not, according to Britt. Meares was shot and killed when he tried to open the back window of the cab.
Voluntary manslaughter is defined as an unlawful killing without malice. The killing is either an act of passion or excessive force used in personal defense or the defense of another person.
Bass will next appear in Superior Court for a probable cause hearing. State law stipulates that hearing must take place within 15 working days from the initial court appearance, which was Tuesday.
Reach Donnie Douglas by calling 910-416-5649 or via email at [email protected]