After deliberating for slightly more than an hour Tuesday afternoon, a jury of nine women and three men returned with a not guilty verdict for Benjamin Merrill Dugger, 34, on one count of non-capital second degree murder and one count of assault with a firearm in the commission of a felony.
At 3:10 p.m. on June 30, 2018 the Greensville County Sheriff’s Office received a call for service at Dry Bread Rd. residence in reference to an altercation between two men. During the call intake process, a caller reported that a man had been shot. Leo Pope, then 31, was identified as the man who had been shot. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Dugger was arrested and charged with second degree murder.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Dugger testified that Pope had come to his home and threatened to kill him while brandishing a firearm. Dugger said he believed he was in danger. Dugger testified that he went into his home, told his two children to get down and went into his room and grabbed his firearm. He said he stopped and looked out the door to see if Pope had left. When he went outside and saw Pope was still on the property he said Pope again threatened to shoot him while pointing a gun at him and he was in fear for his life. Dugger fired his weapon and Pope was struck while inside his vehicle.
The prosecuting attorney, Nelson Fisher, questioned Dugger as to why he did not call the police when he went back inside his home after he and Pope had words. Fisher said there were other discrepancies in Dugger’s story that did not add up. Fisher said Pope was in his vehicle and the vehicle was running and that is when the shots were fired.
Dugger’s defense attorney, Mufeed W. Said, had Dugger describe the events from the time Pope arrived until the shots were fired. Dugger estimated it took approximately five minutes.
Said said Pope came to Dugger’s residence, not the other way around and that Dugger’s actions from the testimony heard were not that of a man looking to commit murder.
The defendant said he was in shock after the shooting and nothing similar had ever happened to him in his life before that day.
Pastor Kelsey Moore testified to the character Dugger and said to the best of his knowledge the defendant had never shown a violent nature.
At 12:10 p.m. Judge W. Allan Sharrett sent the jury to deliberate. It returned at 1:20 p.m. with a not guilty verdict on both counts.