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MURPHY — Prosecutors say a Georgia man was defending himself and his wife when he shot and killed a 24-year-old Cherokee County man on his property.

District Attorney Michael Bonfoey won't charge James Reeves McKinley, who lives near Atlanta and has a second home in Cherokee County.

Investigators believe McKinley shot Gregory Abernathy twice with an assault rifle after Abernathy tried to take the rifle from him and hit him in the head with his motorcycle helmet.

The confrontation started at 11:12 p.m. Oct. 24 when Abernathy and a friend rode an all-terrain vehicle under the locked gate on McKinley's private road in the Boiling Springs area.

Prosecutors in a statement Wednesday said McKinley fired shots in the air from his porch while his wife, Carolyn McKinley, called 911 to report trespassing.

The road and property were marked with “no trespassing” signs. The house is half a mile from Boiling Springs Road.

Abernathy and his passenger stopped the ATV after McKinley fired the shots. They continued and drove up the McKinleys' driveway, where they found James McKinley standing with his rife, authorities said.

McKinley backed away toward his house, according to prosecutors who said in the statement they reviewed the case with Cherokee County sheriff's investigators.

Abernathy stopped the ATV and jumped off, according to the statement.

He yelled at McKinley and walked toward him.

The McKinleys told Abernathy and his passenger to leave and warned them that they were on private property, authorities said.

Abernathy pushed McKinley and grabbed the barrel of his rifle in an attempt to take it from him. Abernathy hit McKinley in the head with his helmet during the struggle.

Abernathy lost his grip on the rifle, and McKinley shot him twice in his left side, prosecutors said.

Abernathy died in the driveway.

“If a person is not the aggressor and he is in his own home or on his own premises, he may stand his ground and repel force with force regardless of the character of the assault being made upon him,” according to the statement from the prosecutor's office.

“In this case the evidence is that James McKinley was defending his home, defending his wife and defending himself,” the statement read. “In such a situation criminal charges are not sustainable.”

The shooting sparked retaliation from the dead man's friends, Sheriff Keith Lovin has said.

James Douglas Millsaps, 46, of Walnut Cove Road, is charged with arson, accused of setting a fire that burned McKinley's home four days after he shot Abernathy.

Millsaps also is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, along with 17-year-old Dallas Dwayne Carringer, in connection with the fire.

McKinley and his wife, who are both retired and in their mid-50s, were not at home when the fire was set.

Abernathy worked as a carpenter, according to his obituary.

He was a native of Cherokee County and the son of Irene Abernathy, of Murphy.
 

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Gosh--just how stupid can you get--you knowingly trespass onto somebody else's property--confront them after they've fired warning shots and then get blown away?????
 

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Terrible for the McKinleys but great for Georgia residents. And seriously, just how stupid could Abernathy have been? I am glad to know they are throwing the book at the arsonists. I hope the McKinleys were insured.
 

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Gosh--just how stupid can you get--you knowingly trespass onto somebody else's property--confront them after they've fired warning shots and then get blown away?????
Agreed.
Ridiculous.

Very sad for Mr. McKinley.

Now forever his mind and his property are tainted because a jerk could not see fit to restrain himself, and quite simply act right.
He and his friend.

Sad.

- Janq
 

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Hasn't any one thought about the fact that the ATV riders were not a threat

Hasn't any one thought about the fact that the ATV riders were not a threat to the home owners when the first shots were fired. Isn't this a case where deadly force would not be justified up to that point. Granted he said he shoot into the air, not at the riders. Still I am not sure he should even have done that.

I can agree that he has the right to run them off his land, but firing a gun at them might have been a little over the top.

Obviously the rider had a bad temper, and was upset about th shots, but he sure as heck should not have attacked the home owner.
 

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Sounds like the guy had stupid friends too... who may spending their life in prison.
 

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Gosh--just how stupid can you get--you knowingly trespass onto somebody else's property--confront them after they've fired warning shots and then get blown away?????
How about trying to get revenge by an attempted murder charge for burning the house 4 days after the shooting...that's pretty stupid.:yup::hand1:
 

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Well, at least three idiots are off of the streets, the dead guy and his two firebug friends.

TedBeau,
I don't see anything wrong with the guy shooting in the air to get the trespassers attention. They shouldn't have been there anyway , they had no right and no business. Jujdging by the dead guys actions and associates, it's no great loss to the world.
 

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Hasn't any one thought about the fact that the ATV riders were not a threat to the home owners when the first shots were fired. Isn't this a case where deadly force would not be justified up to that point. Granted he said he shoot into the air, not at the riders. Still I am not sure he should even have done that.

I can agree that he has the right to run them off his land, but firing a gun at them might have been a little over the top.

Obviously the rider had a bad temper, and was upset about th shots, but he sure as heck should not have attacked the home owner.

There is no way that the homeowner could know if the ATV riders were a threat or not. They were warned, warning shots were fired, and the homeowner did not shoot him until AFTER he was attacked with force by a much younger man. I would say that he is totally blameless and cannot see any fault in what he did.

Oh yeah, gotta love friends who attack the innocent, knowing that their friend was in the wrong when he was killed. I have never been a fan of siding with somebody just because they are a friend or family. If they are in the wrong, I'd be the first to tell them as I'd expect them to do for me.
 

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Good outcome!! Thats 1 more in the law books for us.

And to confront someone who has a firearm is just plain stupid!!!:twak:
 

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This was a bit confusing. Cherokee County is in North Carolina. This was the McKinley's vacation home.
This Cherokee county is north of Atlanta. I use to live there.
 

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If the idiots on the atv turned around after the warning shots and reported it to authorities. We might be hearing about a whacko in the woods firing an "assault" rifle near anybody approach his property.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
lesson learned for me

Hasn't any one thought about the fact that the ATV riders were not a threat to the home owners when the first shots were fired. Isn't this a case where deadly force would not be justified up to that point. Granted he said he shoot into the air, not at the riders. Still I am not sure he should even have done that.

I can agree that he has the right to run them off his land, but firing a gun at them might have been a little over the top.

Obviously the rider had a bad temper, and was upset about th shots, but he sure as heck should not have attacked the home owner.
I'm with you. Unfortunately this thing escalated in a bad way. Lesson for me is don't bring the gun out until absolutely necessary. Hind sight is 20-20 certainly and I can't say for sure whether I would have acted differently. But I would be willing to bet everyone involved would love to have that day over.
 

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By the way Mr. Gregory Abernathy's friends responded after his untimely death, sounds like they were all from shallow gene pools.

I feel bad for Mr. McKinley losing his house after the incident but he had a right to defend himself. Anyone who continues to advance on an armed person is dangerous in the extreme and no one to mess around with.

Yeah, maybe firing the warning shots precipitated the event. In the last couple of decades, warning shots are discouraged and advised against. And you can find yourself in a heap of legal trouble by issuing a warning shot depending on the circumstances. However, I don't believe there are any laws which state a warning shot is against the law. Believe it or not, people in this country have been giving warning shots for hundreds of years. Not everyone in this country are as keen on all the legal pitfalls which surround issuing a warning shot as us members of DC.com, and for the record, I am not an advocate for issuing warning shots! But, last I checked, in most jurisdictions, it is not against the law to issue a warning shot.

But in this case, Abernathy brought his death on himself. He was unlawfully trespassing on posted land, and instead of apologizing profusely, turning around and leaving, he decided to attack and attempt to disarm an armed homeowner on his own property after being ordered to leave. I just gotta say, that is stupid in the extreme!

He was a thug, exhibiting thug behavior and his stupid friends are just as thuggish as he was. Too bad they didn't burn up in the fire they set.
 

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Hasn't any one thought about the fact that the ATV riders were not a threat to the home owners when the first shots were fired. Isn't this a case where deadly force would not be justified up to that point. Granted he said he shoot into the air, not at the riders. Still I am not sure he should even have done that.

I can agree that he has the right to run them off his land, but firing a gun at them might have been a little over the top.

Obviously the rider had a bad temper, and was upset about the shots, but he sure as heck should not have attacked the home owner.
The jerk who was trespassing Would not have done it unless he was going to do harm to the couple. Maybe the BG was high. The home owner was not at fault. He fired after they entered his property. I hope they all get the max.
 

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The jerk who was trespassing Would not have done it unless he was going to do harm to the couple. Maybe the BG was high. The home owner was not at fault. He fired after they entered his property. I hope they all get the max.
I still have to think that calling the police on the ATV riders would have been a better move. The riders might not have known the first shot was intended as a warning shot. Perhaps they heard the shot and thought the homeowner was indeed shooting AT them. There are hotheads out there that are not going to let anyone "Dis" them, it doesn't matter if they are in the wrong, or not.

Still confronting an armed man is really stupid. If someone is throwing lead at me I am going the other way REAL fast. It doesnt matter at that point who is in the right. I'll retreat if possible and let the LEO's worry about it.
 
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