Richland County Validated Gang Member Sentenced to Life in Prison for Lexington County Murder at River Oaks Apartments
Leonard Mickens, Jr.
Leonard Mickens, Jr., a 31-year-old man from the Columbia area of Richland County, was convicted last week Friday, April 8, 2022, by a Lexington County jury following a week-long trial. Mickens was convicted for the Murder of Donte Doyle, age 29, on August 11, 2015, at the River Oaks Apartments in the Columbia area of Lexington County. Chief Administrative Judge Debra R. McCaslin presided over the trial and sentenced Mickens to Life in prison. Under South Carolina law, Mickens is not eligible for parole.
Following the trial, Solicitor Rick Hubbard remarked, “many of our communities are plagued with gang violence. Some of the most violent and heinous crimes that we prosecute are gang-related. This conviction and sentence send a strong message to our communities that we will fully prosecute gang violence and that it will not be tolerated. This was a senseless killing and I am grateful for the hard work on the part of the prosecution team and law enforcement in bringing closure to this family.”
On August 11, 2015, Mickens shot and killed Donte Doyle at the River Oaks Apartments on Bush River Road in the Columbia area of Lexington County. Lexington County Sheriff’s Department responded and conducted the investigation of this case while working with the Midlands Gang Task Force including Columbia Police Department and Richland County Sheriff’s Department investigators who were familiar with Mickens and his gang. The investigation revealed that Mickens intended to kill a rival gang member, but inadvertently killed Donte who was standing outside of his apartment smoking a cigarette. Warrants for Mickens’ arrest were obtained in 2017 for this murder and ultimately served on Mickens a year later in 2018. At the time of his arrest, Mickens was in federal custody following a guilty plea. Mickens was released from federal custody in 2020 and has been continuously incarcerated pending trial.
Around 4:30 p.m., on the afternoon of August 11, 2015, Donte was shot multiple times including from behind. During the trial, a forensic pathologist testified that the victim was shot at least five times and the fatal shot was consistent with the victim being on the ground when he was killed.
At the time of the murder, eyewitnesses were able to provide law enforcement with a description of the shooter and the vehicle. Witnesses reported to law enforcement that the shooter was a passenger in a blue Ford Explorer and he was wearing a distinct bucket hat. Witnesses described the hat as dark with emojis on it. Law enforcement recovered surveillance footage from the apartment complex that captured a black male wearing a bucket hat walking near the building where the shooting occurred. Officers from Richland County familiar with Mickens testified that the individual in the grainy videos had a similar size and build as Mickens. The driver has not been identified.
During the course of the investigation, detectives discovered threatening video messages sent by Mickens to the intended victim approximately an hour and a half prior to the shooting death of Donte in broad daylight. The videos Mickens recorded were filmed in the parking lot of an apartment complex where the intended victim’s mother resided. The shooting of Donte took place right outside of the apartment where the intended victim’s girlfriend resided. During this time period, the intended victim frequently resided with his girlfriend or spent the night with his mother.
During the investigation, law enforcement obtained Facebook records, phone records, and a cell phone associated with Mickens. It was shown during the trial that Mickens sent messages providing his phone number to different individuals on Facebook. Cell phone data was then used to place this phone number associated with Mickens in the area of the shooting at the time of the murder. The threatening videos were also recovered from this phone. In these videos, Mickens was wearing the same bucket hat with emojis on it that witnesses to the shooting described. In addition, a photo located on Mickens’ phone showed him in the passenger seat of what appears to be a Ford Explorer less than two hours before the shooting.
The witnesses, in this case, were scared to testify but were compelled to because of a subpoena. The intended victim, who was a rival gang member, was also compelled to testify. However, he was not cooperative during the trial and indicated that due to his lifestyle he cannot answer questions. After being instructed by the Judge that he had to answer the questions asked, he simply indicated either that he did not know the answer or could not recall the majority of the questions that were asked. However, he did admit to living at River Oaks during the time period and to seeing Donte the day of the shooting but indicated that he did not know Donte. There was no indication that the intended victim and Donte really knew each other during this investigation. The intended victim did also admit to wearing red pants during this time period and seeing Donte wearing red pants that day.
Senior Assistant Solicitor Robby McNair and Assistant Solicitor Luke Pincelli handled the prosecution of this case. The prosecutors, in this case, explained to the jury that the victim was killed because he was “at the wrong place at the wrong time” and “happened to be wearing the wrong color pants.”
During sentencing, Senior Assistant Solicitor McNair requested the maximum sentence. He indicated to the Court that Leonard Mickens is a “violent and dangerous person.” The Court also watched a video that was not introduced during the trial that Mickens recorded the day after the shooting. In this video that was sent to the intended victim, Mickens appeared to boast about the shooting and indicated that he already had shot the intended victim on a prior occasion. He ended the video by saying “bang, bang.” It is believed that Mickens was referencing a prior drive-by shooting in Columbia five days prior in which the intended victim was shot, but survived. The Court was also made aware of the fact that Mickens was one of the leaders of his gang that was responsible for several shootings in Columbia during this time frame and that the shell casings from the drive-by that occurred five days prior to this murder matched the casings recovered at River Oaks.
During sentencing, the victim’s sister expressed to the Court that her brother just found out that he was going to be a father for the first time and that this day changed the lives of two families. She further expressed that this was senseless and that kids were everywhere around the apartment complex during this time.
Mickens spoke during sentencing and expressed sympathy for the victim’s family, however, he did not admit guilt. Mickens did apologize to the rival gang member that the investigation revealed was the intended victim.
Mickens is currently being held in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center for a pending murder charge in Richland County. Mickens will eventually be transported to the South Carolina Department of Corrections to serve his life sentence. Mickens has prior convictions for multiple illegal gun possessions both state and federal, burglary, tampering with an electronic monitor, and receiving stolen goods.