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The Post and Courier

Man acquitted of murder after jury hears self-defense story in North Charleston shooting

The Post and Courier

To prosecutors, Dustin Backman was a drug dealer who killed a rival two years ago amid a turf dispute in North Charleston.

But on Wednesday, Backman told jurors during his murder trial that he shot Antwan Chaplin in self-defense when the drunken 29-year-old tried to pull him from his SUV.

The jury acquitted Backman, 31, after deliberating for a short time later in the day.

His case is the latest locally to center on the S.C. Protection of Persons and Property Act, the state’s “stand your ground” law. He and his lead attorney, Bill Thrower, had tried to have his charge thrown out before the trial, but Judge Deadra Jefferson denied his bid for immunity.

Both men had past arrests. Backman was convicted only once, of carrying marijuana in 2010. Chaplin had a lengthier rap sheet that included crack cocaine possession and a 2012 attempted murder charge that was later dropped.

Circuit Judge William Keesley presided over this week’s three-day trial and allowed the jury to hear some testimony of Chaplin’s history.

Both he and Backman were alleged to have sold drugs at a mobile home park at 4659 W. Montague Ave., Assistant Solicitor Mark Bourdon said in court filings before the trial. On May 21, 2014, they got into an argument there, and Chaplin pushed Backman.

Backman disagreed with Bourdon about what happened next.

As Backman tried to drive out of the community, Chaplin walked alongside his SUV and yelled, “I made you what you are,” according to the prosecutor’s account. Chaplin pounded on the hood and grabbed the door handle, then saw Backman holding a gun.

“Go ahead and shoot,” he said, according to witnesses for the prosecution. “I have been shot before.”

Backman shot him twice in the chest with a .40-caliber Glock pistol. Chaplin ran for a bit, then collapsed.

Backman drove off, but officers from the North Charleston Police Department soon caught him. The police found $860 in cash and 32 rounds of ammunition in his SUV. On Chaplin’s body, they came across $1,311 and some crack cocaine. His blood alcohol level was 0.207 percent.

During an interview with detectives, Backman first said he knew nothing about the shooting but changed his story after learning of Chaplin’s fate.

When he took the witness stand Wednesday, he portrayed himself as a hard-working man with a full-time job, an infant child and a girlfriend he plans to marry. He called Chaplin drunk, crazy and violent.

Backman went to the community to clean up a mobile home he was about to move into, he said. The first sign of trouble was a commotion in which Chaplin got angry at the property manager for renting the home to Backman.

Later, he was outside when the bare-chested Chaplin cursed at him and slammed him against his new home, he said. He climbed into his Kia and started driving away.

But Chaplin got in his path and banged on the hood, he said. As Backman inched the vehicle forward, Chaplin kept getting in the way, he said. He put the Kia in park because he had nowhere to go, he said.

“If you were afraid,” the lead prosecutor, Bourdon, told him Wednesday in the downtown Charleston courtroom, “you could have kept moving ... and escaped this whole thing.”

But Backman said Chaplin opened his door and grabbed him. He fetched his gun from a console, he said, but Chaplin stumbled backward about 5 feet. He fired when Chaplin came back after him, he told the jury.

“I was scared for my life,” Backman said. “I felt like I had to make a choice between him or me.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or

Posted by
Ryan Schartz, Esq.
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