Family, friends remember slain Salisbury man, reward being offered

Published 12:11 am Friday, August 14, 2015

By Shavonne Walker

James Dobbs Jr. last spoke with his son, Jonathan Pierre Dillard, in July. The two talked in what was one of their weekly phone calls. Seven days ago, Dobbs received devastating news that his only son was shot and killed some 200 miles away from where Dobbs resides in Augusta, Ga.

Dillard, 30, was found Saturday morning in a driveway at 828 Park Ave., between a residence and a vacant home. Salisbury Police continue to investigate his murder and say a donor has offered a $500 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the shooting death.

The money was given to the police department and earmarked by the donor for this case, said Salisbury Police Capt. Shelia Lingle.

No arrest has been made in the case, but Lingle said detectives have continued to conduct “follow-ups.”

Neighbors said they heard gunshots several hours before Dillard’s body was found just before 5 a.m. Police have released no other details, but Lingle did say there was some confusion as to whether there was a homicide in this neighborhood prior to Dillard’s death.

She confirmed there hasn’t been a murder in the neighborhood in a number of years. There was a drive-by shooting in March where Cordera Rayshard Brown, 27, was shot at North Shaver and Park Avenue.

Lingle said there have been incidents in and around that area, but no other murders this year in the Park Avenue neighborhood prior to Dillard’s death.

Dobbs said he was told his son was robbed before he was killed, but police have not confirmed a robbery.

Dobbs said he and his family were shocked to learn of his son’s death.
“It took everything out of me when I heard it. You don’t want to lose your only son,” he said.
He said his son, who was known to many as JP or Pierre, was a friendly and outgoing guy who “never met a stranger.”
Dillard spent about four years in the U.S. Navy, which he joined following high school. He grew up in Columbia, S.C. and graduated from A.C. Flora High School where he played football and wrestled, Dobbs said.
His son leaves behind three children — an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old. Two of Dillard’s children reside in Louisiana with their mother, Dillard’s ex-wife. His youngest child lives in Salisbury.
Dillard’s relationship with his child’s mother in Salisbury was one that was “on and off,” but Dillard loved his children, all of whom he’d do anything for, Dobbs said.
Dillard moved back to Salisbury about a year or so ago, his father said.
Dillard worked as a bartender at Outback Steakhouse, where he’d worked for some time, Dobbs said.
“He loved everybody. He was very outgoing, always wanted to laugh,” he said.
Dobbs described the way his son’s eyes would close and his cheeks would rise when he laughed.
Dillard grew up in the church and his grandmother was a minister, Dobbs said. Dobbs said he wants his son to remembered as someone who “knew the Lord.”
“I know he is with Christ. I think you couldn’t meet a better person,” he said of his son.
Dobbs said he’ll miss their regular phone calls and said his son would call anytime he had a problem or needed advice, which he may not have always taken.
“He’d call and say dad I need to talk to you,” Dobbs said.

He called the shooting a “mean” act, but said he forgives the person who did it.

“Whoever did this, I forgive them. I have to forgive them so that I’m at peace,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs said he doesn’t want any other family to go through this.

Friend Sean Sindle said he met Dillard sometime around 2008 or 2009 when, after working his shift as a bartender at Outback, Dillard would stop in at Sindle’s business, Tabu Bar and Lounge in Salisbury.

He said Dillard often wouldn’t drink, just sip water and talk.

“He always had a smile on his face. I could have the worst night ever, and he would walk in and you’d forget all about it. He was a great guy. He never had a cross word to say about anybody. You could walk up to him and start a conversation with him and feel like you’ve known him for a million years,” Sindle said.

Sindle said he was also shocked to hear his friend was murdered.

“It’s hard to believe that someone would senselessly shoot down this man. All of the pictures I have, he had a huge smile on his face,” he said.

A candlelight vigil is planned for Dillard on Tuesday at 10 p.m. at City Park. Organizers say candles will be provided.

Vigil organizer Carrie Maner said she knew Dillard’s funeral would be held in his home state of South Carolina and figured some Salisbury friends, like her and her husband, would not be able to travel to Columbia. Dillard’s funeral will be held 11 a.m. Friday in the chapel of the Leevy’s Funeral Home on Taylor Street.

Maner said she and her husband, Derek, decided a vigil would be an “opportunity for everyone who knew and loved Pierre to come together and support one another as we mourn the loss of someone so special.”

Dillard was “such an amazing person” that a vigil was the least that could be done to show respect as a community and to also “bring awareness to senseless acts of crime” that tear families apart, she said.

The couple wanted to give others a chance to share memories of Dillard whom she will remember as the “funny, caring, and outgoing man that we all knew him to be,” not as she feels he’s being portrayed by news accounts.

Anyone with information regarding Jonathan Pierre Dillard’s murder is asked to call the Salisbury Police Department at 704-638-5333 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245. These calls can be made anonymously.