Man shot to death after dispute

A teenager was shot and killed after an alleged dispute in downtown Hickory, and police arrested a man for the teen's murder.

Hickory Police found Steven Darnell Simpson, 19, of Hickory, in a red Toyota Camry near the 300 block of First Avenue Southwest in Hickory about 9:30 p.m. Monday. Simpson was shot in the head.

Police arrested Richard Clifford Gaither Jr., 23, of Hickory, on Tuesday and charged him in connection with Simpson's death, according to a press release from Hickory Police Department. Simpson was airlifted Monday night after the shooting to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where he died from his injuries Tuesday morning.

According to Hickory Police Department, officers responded Monday at 9:27 p.m. to reports of shots fired near First Avenue Southwest in downtown Hickory. Simpson was the only person shot during the incident, when someone in a white Ford Explorer opened fire into Simpson's vehicle.

Police obtained a vehicle description from witnesses on the scene, and North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers later located the vehicle on Interstate 40.

Troopers, with assistance from the Catawba County Sheriff's Office, arrested Gaither in the 3600 block of 34th Avenue Place NE in Hickory. He was initially only charged with driving while impaired and failure to stop for a blue light and siren.

After further investigation, police charged Gaither with Simpson's murder. Gaither is also charged with felony possession of a schedule II controlled substance with intent to manufacture and maintaining a place for controlled substances. Gaither's bond for those charges is set at $19,000. His murder charge carries no bond.

Gaither's first court appearance is scheduled for today at the Catawba County Justice Center in Newton, according to the Catawba County Sheriff's Office website. He will appear on the murder charge, as well as the drug charges.

Another court appearance for Gaither is in July, when he will appear for Hickory Police Department's driving while impaired charge.

A search of the North Carolina Department of Correction's offender list showed Gaither hasn't spent any time in state prisons before his arrest Tuesday. It is unknown if Gaither has retained an attorney.

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