Second man sentenced to prison in 2019 shooting death of longtime S.C. firefighter

Former Dillon City Fire Chief John Walter “JW” Bailey "fought fire with the best of them,” said his son Keith Bailey, who led the department at the time


Simone Jasper
The Charlotte Observer

DILLON COUNTY, S.C. — A beloved firefighter served his community for decades before his life was cut short in South Carolina, news outlets reported.

John Walter “JW” Bailey was working at the Dillon County store he owned when officials told WMBF he was killed during a robbery in 2019.

Now, more than two years after the 77-year-old’s death, a second person accused in the crime has been sentenced to prison, according to the station. News outlets didn’t list attorney information for the man, identified as William Mason.

The case dates back to Dec. 12, 2019, when officials said the longtime firefighter was shot to death at his Dillon-area store, JW Bailey’s Grocery. The business was a staple for customer Barbara Parker, who told WPDE the news of the owner’s loss left her feeling hurt.

“I’d go down there just about every day just for a hot dog,” Parker said, according to a 2019 TV station report. “His hot dogs were good. I loved him, as a friend, as a family member. He wasn’t kin to me, but he felt like that.”

In addition to running the grocery store for almost 50 years, Bailey is remembered as a passionate firefighter in Dillon, roughly 65 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach. He had been the city’s fire chief during his more than five decades of service, according to news reports and an obituary on the Cooper Funeral Home website.

“He was still (an) active member and fought fire with the best of them,” son Keith Bailey, who was leading the fire department at the time of his dad’s death, told WPDE. “He wasn’t just a member. He would fight fire, along with the 21 year olds.”

After the loss of his dad, news outlets reported Mason and Joshua Manning were considered suspects. They were 20 and 19 at the time, respectively, according to WMBF.

In March, Manning was found guilty of murder, robbery and other charges. He was given a life sentence, court records show.

While an attorney believed to be representing Mason didn’t immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on June 14, his legal team reportedly considered him a “star witness” in his case.

On June 13, Mason pleaded guilty to murder and was ordered to spend 35 years behind bars, with credit for time served, the Fourth Circuit Solicitor’s Office told WBTW.

The prosecutor’s office and the Dillon County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately share additional information with McClatchy News on June 14.

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