GREENVILLE - After first facing a first-degree murder charge, Phillip Lewis pleaded guilty Wednesday to a class-D felony in a shooting that took Tommy Falcone's life.
Lewis plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter. That change in the charge that carries a maximum of 16 years and nine months in prison.
Lewis was originally indicted on a first-degree murder charge. Lewis, 22, is a former East Carolina University student.
Falcone was shot near a student housing complex at ECU in Greenville Aug. 9, 2010.
Police said the 4 a.m. shooting on East 10th Street near Copper Beach Apartments came after a dispute between Lewis and one of Falcone's friends about damage to a truck.
Ryan Shea says when he saw Lewis' white truck slowly driving by from his bedroom window he ran downstairs to round up his friends. He said he went outside his Copper Beech apartment with Falcone and Brandon Staton and they followed the truck on foot. The fight picked back up near Saint Paul Church where Lewis and his friends had parked his white truck.
"Brandon peeked his head around the corner and the next thing I know he's like 'Holy sh*t he's got a gun, he's got a gun,'" Shea said.
In fact, Lewis had an AR-14 rifle strapped across his chest, according to police. The three men, who were often called the "Goonies" were also armed. Shea said he had broken a concrete drain diverter into a few pieces and gave one to Brandon. Falcone had a golf club he grabbed from the apartment.
When Shea saw the gun, though, he said he took off running.
"I just hit the fence and went into the bushes and at this point as I'm running I hear someone yell 'freeze' it was an authoritative voice and a few seconds later I hear a gunshot," Shea said.
Brandon Staton, spoke on the stand next and said at first Falcone didn't believe the gun was real.
"Tommy said word for word 'that sh*t is fake.' I said 'no that's real.' I said 'that's a real gun' and I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him as hard as I could," Staton said.
However, it was too late because Lewis fired a shot and hit Falcone in the abdomen area on his side, according to the medical examiner. The victim then fled into the Pirates Cove apartment complex before dying.
When police arrived they found Lewis with the gun still strapped across his chest. Detective Matthew McKnight was first on the scene. He said Lewis was uncooperative at first but eventually took the gun off and put it on the ground.
After the arrest, Lewis tried to explain to McKnight why he had to take matters into his own hands. He told McKnight that he had to shoot Falcone because he was coming at him with a golf club.
The defense claimed that Lewis didn't have time to think and that's why he fired the shot.
Lewis was indicted on a murder charge on Aug. 25, 2010.
Court is set to resume Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.
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