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Confrontation at vape store preceded fatal shooting of two

SoVaNow.com / June 14, 2021
The young assailant in a Dec. 7, 2019 shooting outside of a Centerville vape shop that left two brothers dead will serve eight years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter Thursday in Halifax County Circuit Court.

Amir Spencer, 19, entered the plea under an agreement with the Commonwealth to end the charges against him, which included two counts of second degree murder. Spencer was 17 when he fatally shot Devonte Powell, 20, and his younger brother Tevin Powell, 17, outside of South Boston Tobacco and Vape store, located at 3601 Old Halifax Road in front of WalMart.

A confrontation that started inside the store — captured on surveillance camera — soon spilled out onto the sidewalk, where Spencer drew his weapon and fired on the Powells. The interior video footage showed the younger victim, Tevin Powell, stating repeatedly that he wanted to fight the defendant.

“Spencer was facing two charges of second degree murder, the Commonwealth acknowledges that the actions of the victims [caught on surveillance] could have led the jury to conclude that Spencer shot while in the heat of passion, more specifically, fear of death or serious bodily injury, which is voluntary manslaughter,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Q. Martin.

On the video, “Mr. Spencer said he would not fight but continued to engage with the younger victim and made reference to his own firearm,” Martin explained in a prepared statement. “As the other two were arguing inside the store, Devonte Powell pulled a firearm from his pocket [later found to be unloaded], pulled the slide back as if to load the weapon, and replaced it in his pocket.

“Subsequently, all three individuals stepped outside the store where Devonte Powell held a firearm at his waist and the other two young men continued to argue. As Devonte Powell and his brother Tevin moved in toward Spencer together, Spencer quickly pulled out his firearm and shot three times, striking both victims at close range,” said Martin.

Spencer immediately fled the scene but hours later turned himself into police. In an interview following his arrest, Spencer told police he “panicked” when the two victims moved toward him.

With the help of a canine unit, police located the murder weapon on Dan River Church Road, 200 yards west of the Waddell Woods subdivision entrance. Forensic analysis confirmed casings and a bullet found at the scene, as well as a bullet from one of the deceased, matched the weapon used in the shooting. Police found an additional firearm, a .25 caliber handgun, on the scene near the body of Devonte Powell. That firearm contained no magazine and was not loaded.

After consulting with the Powell family and with primary investigators in the case, prosecutors made the decision to reduce the charges to voluntary manslaughter, as this would have most likely been the outcome in a jury trial, said Martin. The Commonwealth knew that the defendant would be claiming self-defense.

She claimed otherwise: “It absolutely was not self-defense, but a jury certainly could have disagreed.”

The case had been set for jury trial to begin today, but the defendant chose to accept a plea agreement rather than go to trial.

Martin said the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office consulted with the family and law enforcement before deciding the crime to be charged and punishment to be served. For voluntary manslaughter, sentencing guidelines generally range from three to seven years of active incarceration. After consulting with the family and law enforcement, Commonwealth accepted an active sentence of eight years, a figure above the high end of those guidelines, said Martin.

“It is not satisfactory, but these are the tools our lawmakers have given us. They do not, and cannot, adequately address the loss of life in this case. No sentence would,” she said.

Spencer will serve eight years with the balance of a 20-year sentence suspended. If Spencer fails to be of uniform good behavior for 20 years after his release from incarceration, any part of the 12-year suspended sentence can be imposed.

The conditions of his suspended sentence include a requirement that he exhibit good behavior for 20 years upon his release. Spencer must successfully complete two years of supervised probation. He cannot use marijuana, regardless of its legality, and he cannot possess any firearms or simulated firearms.

Two additional charges of felony use of firearm, first offense, were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

“The officers of the South Boston Police Department, with support from the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, were consummate professionals in maintaining the integrity of the crime scene and in conducting a thorough investigation,” said Martin.

“If not for the victim’s display of the firearm, we would not have been talking about anything except unmitigated murder. The loss of life is an enormous tragedy. It is an enormous tragedy not only for the family who lost two brothers, but also for our entire community.

“Watching the video is heartbreaking. Spencer could have walked away but he did not make that choice, and the young victims did not understand the gravity of their situation until it was too late,” added Martin.



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What a joke HC justice system has here. This guy will get out and kill again and everybody will act shocked. No value of human life and now no consequences for taking two lives.

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Why no mention of the Harlow boy who DROVE the defendant away and who would have obviously been present when the weapon was disposed of? Guess it pays to have your momma get you off the hook....


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