Search warrant: Witnesses say murdered man told suspect to ‘put the gun down and fight me’

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, June 20, 2017

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — Witnesses say East Spencer resident Antonio Lee told his alleged killer to “put the gun down and fight me” before he was shot once in the head, according to search warrants filed with the Rowan County Clerk of Court.

Lee, 26, was found dead between two apartments at the Grant Street Apartment complex, formerly Weant Street Apartments, early on June 11. The man investigators say is responsible, Howard Manuel Mickel III, was arrested Monday in Greensboro. Mickel, 32, was charged with felony first-degree murder and felony possession of a firearm by a felon. He remains in the Rowan County Detention Center without bond.

Rowan County sheriff’s Detective Chad Moose obtained the search warrant, which was issued June 15 and filed the next day. The Post obtained the search warrant and arrest warrants Tuesday.

The search warrant was issued for Antonio Lee’s cellphone, a cellphone belonging to a woman who was in a relationship with Mickel, and a third cellphone found at an apartment at the East Spencer complex. The East Spencer Police Department is the primary investigating agency, but the warrant says it requested the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation.

According to the search warrant, Lee’s body was found on the ground at the back corner of Apartment 27. He had a gunshot wound to the left side of his head. Investigators collected Lee’s cellphone from his back pocket.

Detectives learned that Lee had an argument with two other black men known by the nicknames “Mario” and “Mike Mike,” the warrant said. Witnesses told detectives they heard Lee say during the argument, “Put the gun down and fight me.” A short time later the witnesses heard a single gunshot, and Lee was found dead. Another witness said he heard a gunshot then saw Mike Mike walk away from the scene.

Investigators tried to find the two men but quickly determined that both had immediately left the scene. Two witnesses told detectives that Mike Mike did not live at the apartment complex but that he often visited a woman by the name of Suzzane who lived in Apartment 31, the warrant said.

Detectives were told by the Housing Authority that a woman named Suzzane Crudup lives in Apartment 31. Investigators had previously spoken with Crudup, and she told them she heard the gunshot but she didn’t see anything. She did not mention Mickel to them, detectives said.

Sheriff’s investigators and an SBI agent returned to the complex on June 14 to speak with Crudup. She told them she had been involved in a six-month relationship with Mickel. She said she had a cellphone that belongs to Mickel and turned it over to investigators. Detectives seized another cellphone from Crudup’s apartment, but the warrant does not detail who owns that phone.

The warrant said Crudup showed investigators conversations she had had with Mickel and showed them photos of Mickel on her cellphone.

Mickel was convicted in 2006 in Guilford County on a charge of assault by strangulation. He was sentenced to 30 months of supervised probation and 48 days of time served in jail.

He has pending court cases in Guilford and Rowan counties for misdemeanor assault on a female and misdemeanor simple assault, as well as for driving while license revoked.

Mickel is scheduled for a Friday first appearance in court.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.