Family seeks justice for man shot dead by roommate

James McElroy, 21, (shown with his 2-year-old daughter Izabella) was shot to death Tuesday.

PALMDALE – Several family members wept openly Friday evening, as Clemmie Graves recalled the last moments she spent with her son.

“He was squeezing my hand, and I was saying ‘just breathe for me baby, breathe for me,’” Graves recalled through tears. “I said, ‘come on God, please don’t take my son from me!’”

But less than an hour later her son was gone.

Authorities say James Fitzgerald McElroy, 21, was shot and killed Tuesday night at the Parkwood Patio apartment complex in the 38000 block of 20th street east in Palmdale.

Deputies from the Palmdale Station responded to a call of shots fired around 8:50 p.m. and found McElroy at the location suffering from a gunshot wound, according to Lieutenant Mary Leef of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau. He was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead at 9:44 p.m., according to Los Angeles County Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter. Deputies reportedly recovered two firearms from the location.

McElroy’s roommate, Nicholas Harper, 23, was detained at the scene on suspicion of manslaughter, according to Lt. Leef. Inmate records show Harper was booked at 4:25 a.m. Wednesday morning at the Palmdale Station jail. Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau detectives are still investigating the motive for the shooting, but have reportedly said that the incident appears to be accidental based on preliminary information.

(L to R) Father, James McElroy Sr., girlfriend Carla Morales, and mother Clemmie Graves.

McElroy’s family members vehemently dispute this conclusion.

“There is no way this could have been an accident, he meant to kill my son,” said Graves.

“He was murdered by a friend of his that is being a coward right now and trying to run from it,” said father, James McElroy, Sr.

McElroy’s girlfriend of more than two years, Carla Morales, 22, was at the apartment with both men on the night of the shooting. Morales said the two were having problems because Harper could not come up with his share of the rent for February, and that Harper had appeared drunk on the night of the shooting.

Other family members said Harper had been jealous of McElroy, who appeared to have everything going for him while Harper was suffering a series of setbacks.

“James had everything, he’d just got hired for a job, he’d just got his car, and he had a whole lot of friends who loved him,” said McElroy’s cousin Connie. “He (Harper) was losing everything, he lost his license, his baby mama, and he was drinking and doing drugs.”

Family members said Harper’s jealously had caused tension between the roommates and the two had argued frequently since living together for about a month. They said McElroy suspected that Harper had been stealing from him.

“He was saying I need to get out of here, me and Nick ain’t getting along, he’s stealing from me and I’m gonna have to confront him,” Graves said. “He was trying to figure out a way to confront him.”

She said her son had also grown to distrust Harper, even though the two had been best friends since her son was 13.

“He was saying he had to get the gun out of the house because he didn’t trust Nick, he had a feeling Nick was going to do something,” Graves said. “He was trying to get rid of the gun and sell the gun, but nobody wanted it because it was a gun.”

On the day of the shooting, family members said McElroy and friends had hung out in Los Angeles all day without Harper. Morales said she accompanied her boyfriend back to the apartment later that day, and they found Harper drunk, unhappy and looking to pick an argument.

“He (Harper) was arguing with him for no reason, he was just mad because of the fact that the mother of his child had just left him and he didn’t have anyone, he was just going through some stuff,” she said.

Morales said she was in the bedroom sleeping when the gunshot woke her up. She said she rushed outside into the living room and saw McElroy had been shot and Harper appeared to be on the phone with a 9-1-1 operator. Morales said she immediately called McElroy’s mother to the apartment.

Graves said when she got the call she rushed over and saw that her son had been shot in the mouth.

Family members said McElroy lived for his daughter Izabella.

“I started screaming, who did this to my son! Who did this to my son!” Graves said.

She said she cradled her son’s head in her arms and begged him to breathe and to stay with her. She said McElroy could not talk but squeezed her hand. Graves said when her daughter stood close to Harper, McElroy pulled the girl away from Harper, which she took as a sign of her son’s anger toward Harper.

Graves said she believed Harper purposely shot her son, and said he first tried to lie and cover it up.

“He was saying at first that two black guys busted into the apartment and shot my son but didn’t shoot him, and that the black people wiped their prints off the door when they left,” Graves said. “I was like ‘that doesn’t make sense!’”

Morales said Harper tried to convince her to say that two blacks guy had busted into the apartment, but she refused. Morales said she did not see the gun after the shooting and suspected Harper had hidden the gun in order to support his story. She said there were two guns in the apartment, and deputies found both guns in the bushes outside.

Graves said Harper eventually admitted to killing her son once he got to the Sheriff’s station, but said the shooting had been an accident.

“He said he was cleaning a gun and it had a bullet in it and it got lodged so he had James help him to unstick it, and then he shot James in the face,” Graves said, adding that she doesn’t buy that story either.

“My son knew enough about guns not to put a gun in his face,” she said.

Harper was held on suspicion of manslaughter Tuesday. A spokeswoman at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said Harper had not been formally charged in connection with the killing as of 3:30 p.m. Friday afternoon. But according to the LASD Inmate Information Center, Harper was still in custody as of late Friday night. Deputy Gomez at the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said Harper was still being held on suspicion of manslaughter. (We will have more details on the charges as information becomes available.)

Graves said she would like to see Harper charged with first-degree murder.

“I want 187 premeditated,” she said. “My son was a good son and a good father, he helped take care of me, he helped take care of his daughter, he was the support system for our family… he didn’t deserve this.”

“He (Harper) needs to be locked up to pay for what he did,” said Morales. “He took a great person away from everybody.”

  37 comments for “Family seeks justice for man shot dead by roommate

  1. Liza
    February 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    So sorry for your loss.

  2. James' lil' sister
    May 7, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    We miss James, all people do is talk, why don’t u guys leave us alone, were hurting as bad as it is, so just the people that have nothing but bad stuff to say, pleze stop were asking nicely… Chicano, Frank, and anybody else thats talkin mess pleze stop, how would you feel if you lost your son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, nephew, niece, dad, mom, grandson, or granddaughter, so please stop…

  3. gimmee da dough
    April 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Get real. The family could care less about justice. They proabaly have already been counsled by their plaintiffs attorney and all they see is green dollars.

    • jessie
      April 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      Wow what a prick. Did you know they dont have money, you dirty dog, and as for counseled from attorney, they’ve been mourning and you have nothing better to do get a life. All you guys do is talk why don’t you show us your real name dont be a lil chicken show us who you really are….

    April 7, 2012 at 6:03 am


    • James' aunt
      April 21, 2012 at 11:08 pm

      What is your real name chicken oh my bad I mean CHINAO whatever it is….Tell me…There’s a a person named chicano that I heard cross dresses & is pc’d up for being a chomo aka childmolester…Don Juan now your name is just twan, switch it and snap it…are you taking female hormones?

      • chicano
        June 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm

        A slut……..I’m not giving u any $$$. It don’t matter what kinda tricks u said u can do with hot sauce and a pack of donuts! STOP asking!!!!


  5. Kody
    March 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I met James and nick both when I was 13. James was a good person. Just like me or even you James made his mistakes
    But he all ways had the best intentions. And even if james was up to no good (witch was not the case) that does not justify one man taking another mans life. James loved his baby girl and his whole family and at the end of the day a mother was left with out her son and a Lil girl without her father. JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED!!!!!! RIP to my good friend James Fitzgerald McElroy.

  6. Lucia Amador
    February 23, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    For those of you old friends or those people who knew James for a long time, I’ve known him since 6th grade. Piute Middle School, Mrs. Culver’s class. James was the class clown. the one we could always count on to not have completed his homework and ask if he could copy. :) Outside of the class he was a great friend, someone who would listen to your problems and try his best to give you advise.
    If any of you reading this are family or old friends that can relate, I send you my deepest condolences. I may not have been a close friend in these past few years, but I’m sure if I would’ve seen James out on the street he would’ve greeted me with open arms because that’s who James was.
    As far as the coward who did this, own up to your actions and pay for what you did! Because people like James are unforgettable!

    RIP James McElory, mereses descansar. I love you and you will always be in my thoughts and heart. Best wishes for his mother and to his daughter.

    • Briannamarie R.
      February 24, 2012 at 12:25 am

      From the deepest part of my heart i send out my condolences and best wishes to James loved ones i pray you will get through this i know its hard loosing a great heart such as James and as long as you were on his good side you definitely always always got to see how great he was.We may not have been close these last few years but still considered a great friend none the less and Along with James,Lucia, and many others i was one of those goofy kids from Ms.Culvers class who got the pleasure to grow with James starting from middle school through high school, James because of you ill always have those missing high school art assignments and failed them with a smile. This terrible news just reached me all the way in Oakland, and goes to show James has touched hearts both near and far and will remain in our thoughts always. For the boy who did this you have taken a truly treasured soul and for that karma most certainly catches up to you.
      RIP James McElroy, happy you at least got to leave a small piece of you behind. Lucia you said it all.

  7. happy
    February 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Let me just say that I knew them both and nick has always been a bad apple. James was mpre likely to be a productive member to our society than nick. James did not always make the right decisions firstbut he had the ability to be a great friend, father, boyfriend, son, brother and anything else gr8. Whoever is talkingcrap undercover is someone who has no balls to be who they r and say what they really feel… man the @$ck up. Talk s@#t , spit blod. Reguardless f how u feel about him bella didn’t desrve to lose her daddy

    • chicano
      June 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      O.k. NAPPY….This girl needs to take an English class or 2!!!! Finish school ,get off of welfare,stop having kids and move away from 7th and ave. I!!!!!

    • chicano
      June 8, 2012 at 1:53 am

      If this is the same NAPPY that is best friends with the baby’s mother….your a PHONY! I know your friend cried to you about how this clown beat her down in front of her kid,set her up to get jumped by his new girl and his sister and tore her to car up!!!! Sounds like you don’t have the BALLS to stand up say the truth about this joker!!! How come your not riding for your homegirl??? You are a retard every one has the ability to be some one great,but the decisions you make and the actions you take define the person you are! Now if any thing I have posted here affects any ones feelings and your upset remember……..the truth hurts !

  8. Sonia
    February 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    It’s crazy how this Chicano and Frank people keep talking as if they know James… Anyone that knew James knows what Bells and Sam meant to him, I know first hand… I knew James had haters but damn to keep hating after he’s gone… He had to be the BEST… R.I.P. James We Love You… And for those who want to know regardless of who he was with, Sam and Bells had his heart… So you fake ass guys or b!tch3$ thinking you know him stop your sounding real stupid and you guys need to learn some respect… Don’t hide behind a fake aka name..

  9. Jen
    February 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    This guy James looks like a guy I use to go to high school with. Was James ever known as all-star?

    • James' lil' sister
      May 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm

      What High School did you go to.??

  10. Vivi
    February 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    So sorry to hear about the lost I feel more sad for his daughter. My prayers are with the family. Did this nick guy have a brother named michael Harper? Who passed away like 3 years or so ago?

    • James' lil' sister
      May 10, 2012 at 11:19 pm

      Yes he did…

  11. Erika
    February 15, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I think it is sad that some are using this page as a public forum to bicker back and forth. I pray for the family and send my condolences. In a time like this there is no need to fight. Let focus on the issue at hand a life was lost. Accident or not it will not bring this young man back. God bless your family and may you find peace soon.

  12. RLarson
    February 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Ive known them for years and nick is not that person their making him out to be R.I.P. JAMES THIS [removed] is [removed] up but they were best friends who had each others back 100% nick would never do this to his friend on purpose!!! Nick loved his lil fam bam and never lost his family. And yes EVIDENCE will prove everything!!!

    • teshi
      February 15, 2012 at 7:58 am

      Yeah, it proved that this was no accident, and he killed his friend. It also proves that, Nick had time to change his mind or follow through with his intentions. Murder is about timing, intent and actions leading to. All this considered, and new evidance coming forward, changes the charges and now he is facing murder. If this guy is gonna lie to police, hid the gun, and try and make the girlfriend lie, then he will lie to his Family and his Friends, just to save his a$$!!
      Whatever type of person James was, a good son, a bad boyfriend, a good friend, a young father, doesn’t mean he or his family deserves this. But Nick does, he chose to pick up a gun, he chose to shoot and kill his friend and now he must face what comes after, punishment according to the law, and that will give him time to refelct on his life, his friend and both families that have lost.

  13. Vanessa
    February 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    It mind boggles me how someone could speak so ill about the deceased. Let this family mourn in peace over the loss of their child,brother,and father. Who cares if there were guns in the home,or if the father was with the mother of his child or not. That DOES NOT give anyone the RIGHT to play GOD! May you rest in Peace with the Lord, and may justice be served!

    February 13, 2012 at 9:45 am


    • kim k
      February 13, 2012 at 11:57 am

      @ chicano aka nicks friend aka to scarey to give your name. its kim not Julie …..i was commenting on her ignorant post
      So know who u replying too.
      Get your pens & paper ready cause you are going to have to write ur homie. The truth will come out.

    • James' aunt
      April 21, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      How do you know Rosy Zuniga??????Tell us who you are don’t be a coward:D

    • A family member of James.
      May 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      Obviously, u r related 2 Samantha, u kno her momz, u kno her but do you know the whole story 2 all of them, Samantha didnt let James see Izabella, when he came she kicked him out, she doesnt like Janet, James’ mom, his sisters hardly Izabella, even after his death, u shut up nd stop coming on here leaving ignorant posts about James…. Thanxxx…

      • chicano
        June 8, 2012 at 2:34 am

        No, I’m not related to her…..I don’t know the whole story you are correct ,but here is a little information for you! In the state of California,this is where we are in case you didn’t know, police records and reports are considered public domain. You and me…….we as the public have the right to access these records,now maybe I should post a copy of these reports here! Then we all can have a better understanding of why she kicked him out and didn’t let him see his child, as you claim!

  15. kim k
    February 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    @ julie. If you read the article & were up on your facts from any news source you woild be informed that james did live with his girlfriend & child who he provided for loved very much. & to say James is the one to blame for his owm murder? Ive never ever heard anything so cold & callous & ignorant. Tell nick to clear his heart & you can continued to support him through letters.

    • James' aunt
      February 12, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks Kim see you actually knew James and I’m not worried the truth will come out because ballistics and evidence will not lie. He already confessed to doing it what we do not understand is why he would lie and shove Karla in the bathroom to make her lie as well. but these people are clearly ignorant and do not have any idea of what’s actually going on.

  16. kim k
    February 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    James was a friend of our family & we are friends with his mom & aunts & cousins. If this was a accident James family would be the first to comfort Nick for this tragic accident. BUT the facts are the facts & innocent people dont lie & change their story to the police & hide guns in bushes. We want justice for our friend & his family! RIP BABY BOY

  17. Julie
    February 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    There were two guns at the apartment, its clear that both guys were up to no good. Both guys have kids and are not with there babys moms. There must be a good reason for that! People keep in mind that there is ALWAYS two sides to every story! I dont feel bad for the parents of these guys i feel bad for the children left behind!! What will Sam tell her daughter when she is older? Izabellas life will not be like every other childs, she will wonder for the rest of her life how different it could of been if her dad was still alive! No one here is to blame but James he should of been a real man and distanced himself from people like Nick!

    • James' aunt
      February 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Just ignorant why dont u lose somebody and write some [removed]. My nephew was a real man but you wouldn’t know that because you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him.If you have nothing nice to stay just mind your own [removed] business please!!!

    • happy
      February 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      James is not responsible for his own Death, if ot wasn’t that day it would have been another day in an accident or another month in another way…. god knows what he is doing…. rip my friend

  18. marisa
    February 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I will keep the mcelroy family in my prayers stay strong.if he is guilty he will one day face the lord and receive his punishment.god bless
    -marisa and veronica alvarez

  19. Lisa
    February 11, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    I’m so sorry. I can’t believe he is gone. I love you guys and miss all of you my prayers and love is with you all. This boy planned this. And god knows the truth. Justice will be done.

    February 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    [Flagged for inflammatory content and removed]

  21. Facts
    February 11, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Very sad! My condolences to the family and friends of young James McElroy.

    Time for the community to come together and find ways to steer our young adults on a positive life course. Mr McElroy was on that right path and Mr. Harper tragically altered that positive movement forever. TCAL, LULAC, NAACP, & AVHRC need to step up and address the real issues in our communities. PLEASE STEP UP and DO THE RIGHT THING!

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