Dad says neighbor gunned down son in Collinsville street after years of bickering

Collinsville fatal shooting

Collinsville man says neighbor gunned down his son after years of bickering
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Collinsville man says neighbor gunned down his son after years of bickering

Danny Lee died in his father's arms after a long-running dispute with his father's neighbor ended in a gunshot blast on Friday night in Collinsville.

"It shouldn't have happened that way. Not right in front of me," said the father, Gary Lee, in an interview Saturday.

Danny Lee went to his father's house about 7:30 p.m. after he finished mowing a yard for a friend. The father and son drank a couple of beers and watched the Cardinals baseball game on television on his father's back porch. As Danny Lee, 40, went to leave, Gary Lee said he heard his neighbor shout, "I told you I would get you."

Then Gary Lee saw a flash of fire that he said could only be a gunshot blast.

"I ran to him. I knew he was in trouble. There was blood everywhere," Gary Lee said.

Danny Lee and the neighbor, who had not been charged in connection with the shooting as of Saturday, had a dispute when Danny Lee lived with his father. But Danny Lee and the neighbor hadn't spoken in years. Danny Lee had suspected the neighbor of putting glue into locks of his truck, loosening the lug nuts on his truck wheels and vandalizing his truck years before.

Gary Lee said he worried about leaving his wife home alone when he went on hunting trips because the neighbor always seemed to know their comings and goings. It unnerved Gary Lee.

"Danny warned me not to trust him," Gary Lee said. "But I thought, 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.'"

The 57-year-old neighbor lived alone in a small, gray house on Illinois Street. He didn't work, according to Gary Lee. The neighbor's mother bought the house for him, according to Lee.

Gary Lee said the neighbor was easily angered by neighborhood events, such as someone mowing too far onto his property. He was a heavy drinker with a quick temper, but over the years the neighbors developed an uneasy truce, according to Gary Lee.

Gary Lee would try to calm him down when he got angry, he said. The morning of the shooting, Gary Lee helped his neighbor with a mechanical problem with his truck and gave him a tomato plant.

"I was just trying to keep the peace," Gary Lee said.

Collinsville fatal shooting
Crime-scene tape surrounded a house Saturday in the 600 block of Illinois Avenue in Collinsville following a fatal shooting.

Danny Lee, 40, worked as a carpenter and spent his free time hunting and fishing, Gary Lee said. He was a devoted father to his 17-year-old daughter, Gary Lee said.

A cousin, Kathy Burgess, said Danny Lee "always had a smile on his face."

Police said they were called about 9:30 p.m. to the 600 block of Illinois Avenue for a report of a shooting. When officers arrived, they found Danny Lee lying on the street, near his vehicle. Gary Lee and his wife were comforting his son, who was bleeding profusely. Collinsville rescue crews treated Lee at the scene and took him to a St. Louis-area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"Responding officers were able to identify the suspect as a 57-year-old male who was known to the victim and who also resided nearby on Illinois Avenue," Collinsville Police said in a news release. "The suspect fled the scene immediately after the shooting and prior to the arrival of the responding officers."

A radio alert was issued for local police departments. At about midnight, Illinois State Police troopers located the suspect, who had been in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 255, police said.

The suspect was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

Collinsville Police said detectives were actively collecting information in the case as of Saturday morning, and a motive had not yet been determined.

Gary Lee spent Saturday morning, the day before Father's Day, on his porch with family and friends, recounting his last moments with his son. While watching the baseball game, the two planned a fall hunting trip. As darkness fell, Danny Lee said it was time for him to head home with his truck and his mowers. So he got up, said goodbye and left his father's porch.

"We were closer than a tick on a hound dog," Gary Lee said, wiping tears with a tissue. "What am I going to do now? He's gone."

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said he expected formal charges to be filed against the suspect on Monday. The suspect was being held on $1 million bail, Gibbons said.