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Shooting "has overtones of self-defense"

Originally ran here as:
"Police investigating shooting that killed one"
by Julie Woodcock, Cherokee County Bureau
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal
October 17, 2001

SPARTANBURG, NEW YORK -- Spartanburg police are investigating a shooting that left one man dead and another injured Monday night.

James Stevens Jr., 23, of 207 Gowan Street died Monday at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center at 11:19 p.m., according to Coroner's Investigator Alison Cocoros.

Cocoros said an autopsy performed Tuesday concluded that Stevens died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The shooting happened at the home of Lewis Fowler, 56, of 748 Baltimore St.

According to an incident report, police arrived on the scene Monday night around 10:15 to find Fowler standing in the doorway of his home bleeding from the shoulder. He told police he'd been shot, but said he wasn't sure by whom.

At that point, police heard Stevens cry out. They found him lying on the ground next door near the entrance of Oliver Pharmacy. He told officers Fowler had shot him.

Police searched Fowler's home with his consent and found a small caliber handgun.

Fowler told police Stevens threatened him earlier in the day. He said he believed Stevens was involved with his daughter, but Fowler said when he questioned her, she refused to give him Stevens' name so he could swear out a warrant.

Fowler said Stevens returned to his house with a handgun around 10 p.m. The two men exchanged words, he said, and Stevens shot him in the shoulder. According to the incident report, Fowler said he shot Stevens in turn, but did not say whether he used his own gun, or took the weapon away from Stevens.

Sgt. John Hall said police aren't sure at this point what happened, since no witnesses have come forward, and Stevens was unable to give a statement before his death.

"Right now it has overtones of a self-defense thing, but we don't know for sure," he said.

However, there may be problems with Fowler's account of the incident.

The woman Fowler described as his daughter said in a phone interview Monday that she is actually his niece. She also denied being Stevens' girlfriend and said the two were no more than friends who saw each other occasionally. She said Fowler does have two daughters, but neither lives in the area.

Stevens' family is baffled and shocked over the crime.

" He wasn't a violent person," said Stevens' mother, Faye Stevens. " He didn't bother anybody. I didn't know he was arguing with somebody. We didn't know he had any enemies."

Mrs. Stevens said her son was an employee at Carey Moving and Storage Company. He had one daughter, Ja'Keisha Kennedy-Stevens, 4, and a deep love for children in general.

"He cherished his daughter," said his sister, Faye Denise Stevens.

But he also gave the same loving attention to his nieces and nephews, according to another sister, Cynthia Stevens. " He was everybody's daddy."

Stevens' mother insisted that no one who knew her son would believe he would attack Fowler without provocation.

"Nobody's going to believe that he killed him," she said. "He's not that kind of a person."

Hall asked anyone who saw the incident or knows anything about it to contact police.

"Another independent witness testimony could sway this thing one way or the other," he said.

If you have information about the shooting, call the Spartanburg investigations division at (864) 596-2065.

Julie Woodcock can be reached at (864) 487-7146

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