Local News

Suspect in July Fourth stabbing death was defending himself, friend says

Posted July 7, 2014
Updated July 8, 2014

— A man arrested in the fatal stabbing of a 16-year-old boy during a Fourth of July fireworks show in downtown Raleigh was defending himself, a friend of the suspect said Monday.

Jerome Lee Gardner, 20, of Raleigh, was charged with murder Saturday in the death of Tahje Alexander Mials, who police say was stabbed at the intersection of South Wilmington and East Cabarrus streets shortly after 11 p.m. Friday.

Mials died at a local hospital. Gardner made his first appearance in Wake County District Court Monday afternoon, when he was denied bond and appointed a public defender.

Raleigh police have said the crime was not random, but they haven't commented on a possible motive for the stabbing.

Gardner's friend, David Valentine, however, said the suspect and victim didn't know each other, and he denied speculation that Gardner is involved in a gang.

"Most definitely, he was defending himself," Valentine said. "He's not the type of dude to just like – there weren't no beef."

Mials and Gardner exchanged words during the Independence Day celebration, Valentine said, and Mials left and returned with a group of people to fight Gardner.

"They can't say it's gang-related," said Valentine, who was involved in the fight. "We don't affiliate with none of that mess."

Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue could not say whether the stabbing was gang-related, saying only that no gang-related charges have been filed.

"I know Jerome. He is a very kind and loving person," Gardner family friend Larry McLean said. "There is no way in the world that he would have provoked any kind of incident. Now, as far as self-defense, he will defend himself."

Mials was a student at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, a spokeswoman for the Wake County Public School System said.

His family members could not be reached for comment Monday, but Brian Murphy, a Millbrook science teacher, said Mials was in his earth science class.

"Tahje had great potential, a kind heart and a witty sense of humor," he said in an email. "He was well-liked. A terrible tragedy."


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  • czaadonis Jul 8, 2014

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    this statement is so far from reality... trouble can kick in your front door are you to blame yourself for that? because certainly you werent out looking for someone to kick your front door in..

  • Hubris Jul 7, 2014

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    That's the same with all police departments. If they ask for your ID or name, just say yes sir or yes ma'am and give it to them!

  • proudgrandmomma Jul 7, 2014

    If your not out looking for trouble then you wouldn't need to be carrying a knife for heavens sakes

  • less_govt_is_better_govt Jul 7, 2014

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    Have you ever dealt with the RPD? Guilty until you prove your innocent in wake county

  • Rod Runner Jul 7, 2014
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    I have carried a legal knife in the past for self defense.

    What's so hard to believe? I certainly never wanted to use it, but if it was life and death, it was all I had if I was unable to run.

  • PanthersFan45 Jul 7, 2014

    This gentleman in the video claims his son was caught in the middle and fears it was gang related. The self-defense claim I don't think will work here. Tragic event ........ a difficult loss for the family on a national holiday that is reserved for celebration.

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Jul 7, 2014

    Self-defense in a stabbing, I find difficult, though not impossible, to believe. Could be, but it's easy to say once the other guy is dead.

    Prayers for the families of the both, now grieving.

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Jul 7, 2014

    relic, where does it say the teenager was unarmed? And this guy is making a good attempt at a "mean mug" but I've seen sixteen year old boys tower over their fathers and other grown men. Who knows? I don't. What I do know is that a lot of senseless killings like these could be avoided. Two wasted lives over somebody trying to be bad

  • Dat MoFo Jul 7, 2014

    Mials returned with a "group" of people to fight Gardner. Maybe he needed a knife to fend off the group.

  • disgusted2010 Jul 7, 2014

    Would you expect him to say anything else?