A man who killed a 29-year-old in a Durham road-rage incident will serve up to nine years in North Carolina prison under a plea deal finalized Monday.
Atom Cameron was 20 when he first faced a second-degree murder charge for killing Colby Lucas. Lucas died Sept. 25, 2018, around 2:20 p.m. at a Circle K gas station and convenience store on N.C. 54.
Cameron spent about seven months in jail before the plea hearing Monday. In 2019 he was charged with possession of a stolen firearm and two drug charges.
Under the plea deal, the second-degree murder charge was downgraded to voluntary manslaughter, an intentional but unplanned killing, such as in the heat of passion.
Cameron’s sentence ranged from a minimum of nearly seven years to up nine years.
Lucas’ family wept as Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson and others talked about the terms of the deal between prosecutors and Cameron in court on Monday.
“It’s not enough time,” said the victim’s mother, Rose Lucas, after the hearing.
Rose Lucas said she didn’t blame the prosecutor in the case. She blames the larger criminal justice system that allows a short sentence for taking a life, while she will never see her son again.
“People get more time for drugs than people that take a life,” Rose Lucas said. “It is not looking after the victim’s family at all.”
Homebody, Duke fan
Lucas was on his way home from a new job when he was killed, his sister Teresa Parker said.
Parker described her brother as a homebody who liked to spend time with his family, watch documentaries, have deep discussions and pull for his favorite team, Duke University.
At the time of his killing, his children were 2 to 12 years old.
Lucas had recently started working in waste management and had worked his way up at one company before being hired by another company about three weeks before his death, Parker said.
“He always said used to say that ‘I want to give my kids better things than I had,” Parker said.
Cameron told police he was about to pull away from the gas station pump on Sept. 25, 2018, when Lucas pulled into the parking lot at a high rate of speed, causing him to stop suddenly.
“Cameron stated that he and Lucas looked at each other and threw their hands up in the air,” the warrant says.
As Cameron pulled out of the parking lot, he heard Lucas yell something, he told police.
Cameron backed his truck up, got out and stood by his driver’s side door. He told police he had a gun in his right hand, hidden inside the car.
“Because he felt an altercation may occur,” the warrant says.
Investigator David Cramer wrote that he believed Cameron and Lucas exchanged words and that Lucas hit Cameron.
Cameron pushed Lucas and then shot him, Cramer wrote.
Apology in court
Lucas ran into the store bleeding and died there from a gunshot wound to the neck and shoulder area, Assistant District Attorney Mitchell Garrell said Monday.
There was no evidence that Lucas was armed, Garrell said.
Cameron called 911, spoke with police at the scene and then gave a full statement, Garrell said.
Those factors, along with his lack of previous convictions, led to the plea deal, the prosecutor said.
Cameron was also linked to road-rage incidents in Mecklenburg County, Garrell said. He was charged with related driving offenses but wasn’t convicted.
Cameron’s attorney, Ralph Frasier, said his client was “very remorseful.”
Cameron, who wore a black T-shirt and black pants, apologized to Lucas’ family and his family. He said he didn’t act with malice or intent.
“I just want to say that I apologize,” Cameron said.