MORGANTON -- A friend of Rodney Howard Sanders said he couldn’t imagine he’d kill anyone.
But Wednesday, Sanders, 56, of 1531 Royce St. in Morganton, was charged with murder in the death of Brandon Chase Jones, according to a release from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.
The release said deputies were called to Sanders’ home on Royce Street for a reported shooting around 2:42 a.m.
Sanders met the first deputy on the scene outside of the home and he was taken into custody. Other responding deputies found Jones in the basement of the home without a pulse, the release said.
Burke County EMS arrived at the scene at 2:46 a.m. and pronounced Jones dead, the release said.
According to his obituary, Jones, 36, was a Marion resident and the father of two children.
Search warrants filed in the case said Sanders met deputies outside the home saying, “I did not mean to shoot him.”
According to the search warrants, Sanders had taken the rifle he’s accused of shooting Jones with to an upstairs bedroom, where a BCSO sergeant found it behind a bedroom door.
Detectives interviewed a female witness, who said Sanders and Jones got into an argument about whether Jones had hit her. The witness told Sanders he did not hit her, but Sanders offered to let her sleep in a bedroom upstairs.
Jones told Sanders no, the witness said, and Sanders went upstairs and came back downstairs with a gun. The witness said he pointed the gun at her and Jones and pulled the trigger, but it clicked and didn’t fire, the warrants said.
The witness said Sanders went back upstairs, and that she heard Sanders say something like “I’ll fix it this time,” according to the warrants.
When Sanders came back downstairs, the witness told detectives he pointed the gun at her and Jones again. Jones stood in front of the witness, and she said Sanders took a few steps toward them before pulling the trigger.
She said she started screaming for someone to call 911, and that’s when the homeowner came downstairs, went to get his phone and came back downstairs on the phone with 911 dispatchers, warrants said.
The witness also said Sanders told her and Jones that he did not mean to do it.
Detectives seized a .22 rifle, .22 shell casing, three .22 rounds, a knife with a broken tip, a cup with multiple .22 rounds and a guide rod from the home, the warrants said.
Mike Hennessee had known Sanders for about 20 years, he told reporters on scene Wednesday. They were next door neighbors.
Sanders had introduced him to Jones, who Sanders called a “good, old friend.” Hennessee said he thought Sanders was letting Jones and another person stay in the home with him.
“He’d give the shirt off his back to somebody,” Hennessee said. “As far as I know, he was letting them live here, and he does that. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Hennessee said he, Sanders and Jones had all been hanging out Tuesday night, and that they were all laughing and having a good time. At some point, though, things seemed to take a turn for the worse.
“What I know of what he said, what Rodney said was it was an accident,” Hennessee said. “He said (Sanders) walked in, and a friend of mine was outside, and my friend told me he heard a pop, and then Rodney come out and said, ‘Hey man, I think that I shot this guy.’”
Hennessee said he was told Sanders had wanted Jones to leave, and that there may have been an altercation between Jones and another person in the home that caused Sanders to ask him to leave.
“I know it wouldn’t on purpose,” Hennessee said. “I know it wouldn’t malicious, it wouldn’t a fight, it wouldn’t intentional at all. At all. He’s a good guy.”
Sanders and Jones had been arrested together Saturday, according to an arrest report from the Drexel Police Department.
Sgt. T. Butler with the Drexel Police Department pulled over a car Sanders was driving, estimating its speed to be around 50 mph in a 35 mph zone around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, the arrest report said.
When Butler pulled the car over and conducted a consent search, he found a crystal substance that looked to be methamphetamine in a cigarette package under the driver’s seat of the car. That earned Sanders a felony charge of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, according to the arrest report from DPD.
When Butler searched another passenger’s purse, he found another container with a crystal substance that appeared to be methamphetamine. Jones said that it was his, so he also was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, his arrest report said.
Sanders also had previous charges from a March incident in the town of Drexel.
He was charged in March with a felony domestic violence protective order violation, cruelty to animals, possession of a firearm by a felon and discharging a weapon into an occupied dwelling or moving vehicle, according to warrants filed at the Burke County Courthouse.
According to another incident report from the Drexel Police Department, Sanders had fired a shot into a vehicle and the bullet hit a small dog in the car.
The charges from that incident still are pending.
Sanders was held at the Burke County Jail without bond on the murder charge. He was set to appear in court Thursday.