04/16/10 — Bandy will face time for shooting

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Bandy will face time for shooting

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on April 16, 2010 1:46 PM

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William Earl Bandy Jr.

A Wayne County Superior Court jury dramatically reduced the most serious charge against William Earl Bandy Jr., 29, Thursday, finding him guilty on three counts, none of which was murder.

The jury, comprised of 10 women and two men, found Bandy guilty of voluntary manslaughter -- as opposed to the original charge of first-degree murder in connection with the 2006 death of Fredrick A. Coleman, 31.

Jurors also found Bandy guilty of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The verdict was returned around 4:15 p.m.

Bandy will serve somewhere between just under 13 to nearly 17 years in prison for the offense, Presiding Judge Paul Jones of Lenoir County ordered.

The defendant had been implicated in the shooting death of Coleman, 31, a Dudley man with whom he had had violent interactions in the days and hours preceding the fatal shooting, police testified.

Jones, acting under his discretion to do so, assigned consecutive sentences for all three charges.

That was after Assistant District Attorney Paige Rouse asked the judge to consider such consecutive, or "back to back," sentences for the offenses. Bandy's attorney, Richard McNeil of Jacksonville, had asked the judge to consolidate some counts.

Despite having that request rejected, McNeil said he was "happy" with the verdict.

"To go from first-degree murder to manslaughter is pretty amazing," McNeil said.

McNeil said he believed jurors saw the self-defense in the confrontation.

"I think ... obviously the issues of self-defense, and the circumstances that were surrounding the shooting ... and also some of the mental health issues that he's had throughout his life."

Psychologists for both the state and defense testified that Bandy suffered from mild retardation, although their diagnoses differed on other points.

A state Dorothea Dix forensic clinician who diagnosed Bandy testified that the defendant had used cocaine on the day of the shooting, but he believed Bandy shot Coleman with the intent to kill.

According to Bandy's statement to police, Coleman had threatened to kill Bandy and that previous arguments between Bandy and Coleman's family members escalated into the fatal shooting.

The March 2006 incident took place just before 3 p.m. on South Alabama Avenue, near West Spruce Street.

Bandy first fired into the air, then shot into the car, striking Coleman and causing the vehicle to crash into a fire hydrant at Whitted Court.

Coleman was initially transported to Wayne Memor-ial Hospital, then later to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, where he died of his wounds, authorities said.