An Alabama man has been charged with murder in the death of a fellow football fan who was shot in the face during a drunken argument following Alabama’s Nov. 9 loss to LSU, authorities said.
Colbert County authorities initially charged David Allen Fulkerson, 31, with attempted murder in the shooting of 29-year-old James Michael Roland Merritt, according to the Times Daily in Florence. The charge was upgraded Friday after Merritt, of Cherokee, died overnight at Huntsville Hospital, where he had been on life support since the shooting.
"After being taken much too early, Mikey saved three lives by being an organ donor," Merritt's obituary reads.
Fulkerson is accused of shooting Merritt once in the face with a pistol during the fight, which took place at Fulkerson’s home near the rural town of Littleville. Several people had gathered to watch Alabama’s Crimson Tide take on the LSU Tigers.
Merritt's fiancée and Fulkerson's girlfriend are sisters, Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson told the Times Daily.
"They just got into it over the ball game," Williamson said of the men. "They'd been jawing at each other all day. Alcohol played a big part in it."
The argument between the men broke out around 7 p.m. following Alabama’s 46-41 loss to LSU. Williamson said Fulkerson appeared to be a Tide fan, while Merritt was rooting for the Tigers.
A photo on one of several Facebook profiles belonging to Merritt shows him in Auburn gear. Auburn and LSU are Alabama’s biggest rivals on the field.
Fulkerson's Facebook profile photo has an Alabama frame on it, and photos posted in September show him and his girlfriend at a game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Several of his photos also show him in Alabama gear, and the couple's dog, Maxx, is seen in some images sporting his own team colors.
After the shooting, Merritt was flown from the scene to Huntsville Hospital, where his family made the decision Thursday evening to remove him from the ventilator that was keeping him alive, Williamson said.
Video posted to the Facebook page of Shoals Insider, a northwest Alabama online news site, shows a helicopter carrying Merritt away from the scene the night he was shot. In a brief story about the murder charge against Fulkerson, the site reported that two witnesses allege they saw Fulkerson punching himself in the face following the shooting to make it appear he had been assaulted by Merritt.
Fulkerson had a black eye in his Nov. 9 mugshot. Shoals Insider did not identify the witnesses making the claim.
Fulkerson's bail amount was increased from $50,000 to $100,000 when the charge against him was upgraded to murder, the Times Daily reported. He is being held in the Colbert County Jail.
Merritt, who was known to his family and friends as Mikey, leaves behind a young daughter. His introduction on one social media page describes him as “a daddy first, a husband to Heidi Roberts and a family man.”
Photos posted by his sister, Whitney Myrick, in a Facebook group called Justice for Mikey, show Merritt's daughter lying with her father in his hospital bed. Other photos show family members holding his hand as he lay unresponsive.
"My brother has gone to be with the Lord," Myrick wrote Friday afternoon. "Please just keep all of us in your prayers, especially my momma and our monkey butt (Merritt's daughter). We will get justice for you, Mike Merritt."
Merritt's funeral has been set for Friday at Asphalt Rock Baptist Church in Cherokee, according to his obituary.
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