Hannah Ayers tells DailyMail.com that Good Samaritan John Dotson was justified in killing her friend Drew Morgan after Morgan repeatedly attacked him and his wife
A Good Samaritan who shot and killed a man moments after saving him from drowning was right to pull the trigger according to the teen girl at the center of the horrifying encounter.
Rescuer John Dotson, 74, hauled 29-year-old Nathan Drew Morgan and his friend Hannah Ayers, 19, on to his pontoon boat after they tumbled off their jet ski without life jackets.
But in a bewildering turn of events the two men began to grapple and Dotson pulled a pistol and blasted Morgan in the chest as his wife Debra, 70, prayed and screamed for help.
Last Tuesday’s killing on serene Lake Keowee in Salem, South Carolina was investigated for 48 hours before Oconee County officials declared it ‘self-defense’ and cleared Dotson, a Vietnam veteran.
Morgan’s friends and family are shocked by the speedy conclusion and can’t understand why the ripped dad-of-one would lash out at a silver-haired grandfather.
But shaken Ayers defended Dotson in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, saying he was forced to open fire when Morgan repeatedly attacked him and his wife.
‘Drew was my friend and I will mourn him as my friend. But I will never understand the way he was acting that day – it’s like a demon possessed his body,’ she said.
Nathan Drew Morgan, 29 (left) was shot dead on Lake Keowee in South Carolina last week by John Dotson, 74, (right) who rescued him and friend Hannah Ayers, 19, after they tumbled off their jet ski without life jackets
Crime scene photos obtained by DailyMail.com show the aftermath of the altercation that resulted in Morgan being shot dead on Dotson’s pontoon boat
After Ayers and Morgan were rescued and hauled onto the boat, Morgan made a grab for the boat’s controls, resulting in a grappling match with Dotson. Pictured: The bloody scene on the boat following the shooting
Officials have confirmed Dotson, Vietnam veteran, will not face charges, declaring his actions, ‘self-defense’
The two friends were jet skiing together when Morgan began speeding and lost control, flipping the jet ski (pictured) in chest-deep water, prompting an argument, Ayers said
‘He was aggressive from the moment he set foot on that boat. They were physically fighting, Drew wouldn’t stop, he wouldn’t calm down.
‘In my eyes there was no question that John had to shoot to protect himself and his wife. He will be my hero for life because, if it wasn’t for him, I would have drowned in the water that day.’
Ayers says Morgan got in touch on Monday March 14 inviting her to go jet skiing on Lake Keowee, an 18,500-acre reservoir near the state’s northwest border with North Carolina and Georgia.
She says the pair had hung out the previous summer as friends and were not romantically involved. They had breakfast before heading to the boat ramp in Morgan’s truck.
Ayers told DailyMail.com that she noticed en route that Morgan, father to a ten-year-old boy, was slurring his words and she was concerned enough that she drove the last leg of the journey.
The young waitress said she didn’t see Morgan drink or take anything however cops later found beer and suspected marijuana in his truck.
After the pair hit the lake at around 12:30pm Ayers said Morgan went so fast he lost control and flipped the jet ski in chest-deep water, prompting an argument.
‘I thought I dropped my phone, I was all out of sorts because the water’s cold, I’m in sweatpants and a baggy hoodie. I’m real irritated at that point,’ she recalled.
‘He threatened to leave me at the island. He was calling me a bi**h. I was in front of him and he kept trying to yank me backwards by my hair. I was like, just take me to the dock.’
The pair climbed back on the jet ski but Ayers said she was soon thrown off again so violently that it knocked the breath out of her.
Ayers told DailyMail.com Morgan ‘was aggressive from the moment he set foot on that boat’, despite being saved by the Good Samaritan
As Morgan continued to spiral out of control during the struggle, Dotson eventually brandished a gun and used it to pistol-whip the 29-year-old
Witnesses told police they saw Morgan tossing the Dotsons’ fishing rods into the water and attacking them ‘multiple times’ during the altercation
Morgan, who worked for a tree cutting business and was married but estranged from his wife, was dead by the time police boarded the blood-spattered boat
‘The jet ski is going in circles in the middle of the lake and Drew is swimming after it. I knew I couldn’t swim that far without a life jacket,’ she added.
‘I’m in a hoodie, I could feel myself sinking, I was freaking out, hyperventilating. And then this pontoon comes up on us and they pull me up on the boat.’
Ayers said she had never met Dotson or his wife of 53 years, Debra, before they helped her aboard and wrapped her in a blanket.
But as she thanked them for their kindness, she claims Morgan began cursing and ordering the couple to chase after his runaway jet ski.
Morgan then made a grab for the pontoon’s controls and got into a grappling match with Dotson, Ayers told DailyMail.com.
‘He was calling him a bi**h, a pu**y boy, saying he would knock him between his eyes. The old man was saying just calm down and we’ll take you to the jet ski,’ she said.
‘He struggles with the old man so hard that he breaks the ignition so the boat can’t go anywhere. Next thing I turn around and he’s got both of them.
‘I yelled at him to let go. I hit him a few times. And that’s when I pushed him off the boat to try and de-escalate the situation.’
What happened next is perhaps the most perplexing part of the deadly encounter for Morgan’s loved ones.
Morgan reportedly became ‘belligerent’, prompting Dotson to pull out his pistol to shoot him in the chest, killing him
Ayers said she didn’t see Morgan drink or take anything during their excursion, however, cops later found beer and suspected marijuana in his truck (pictured)
A search of Morgan’s GMC truck revealed empty cans of Michelob Ultra beer, drug paraphernalia including grinders, bongs and a ‘cigarillo package containing a green leafy substance rolled into a blunt … consistent with marijuana’
A pipe with residue and a marijuana grinder were among the drug paraphernalia found in the truck
Ayers said she noticed Morgan had been slurring his words which prompted her to drive the last leg of the journey. Pictured: Vape pods and drug paraphernalia found in Morgan’s car
‘As soon as I pushed him in they said, no don’t do that. Maybe they thought it had smacked some sense into him but it was automatically the same thing,’ Ayers recalled.
She said Debra was on the phone to a 911 operator at this point, pleading with police to find them as they ‘didn’t want to hurt’ Morgan.
As the struggle continued she noticed Dotson brandishing a gun for the first time before using it to pistol-whip Morgan.
‘He was choking the old man out and the old man took the bottom of the gun and was trying to hit him away with it,’ she said.
‘There was two warning shots in the air. He was begging him, please stop, I don’t want to hurt you. I could see in the old man’s eyes he was tired, he could not fight anymore.’
Ayers said she had never met Dotson or his wife of 53 years, Debra (pictured), before they helped her aboard and wrapped her in a blanket
Ayers claims she didn’t witness the fatal shot because she retreated to the side of the boat at the sight of the gun and ducked down.
‘I remember hearing the shot, I turned round and I saw Drew’s head drop. And then I heard his last two breaths,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘The woman was trying to give him CPR, she was holding his head, she was crying over him. They did not want Drew to die. It was self-defense in every possible way.’
Morgan, who worked for a tree cutting business and was married but estranged from his wife, was dead by the time police boarded the blood-spattered boat.
A coroner confirmed he was fatally shot in the chest while the only injury attributed to Dotson in the incident report was a ‘hurt’ back.
A murder inquiry was launched but two days later investigators from the Oconee County Sheriff’s met with Tenth Judicial Circuit Solicitor David Wagner who determined the incident was self-defense.
‘All parties have been notified of the decision not to file charges in the case,’ the sheriff’s office revealed in a statement the following day.
An incident report obtained by DailyMail.com reveals that investigators collected video from the resident of a lake-front home who saw ’95 percent’ of the fatal encounter.
He told them he witnessed Morgan tossing the Dotsons’ fishing rods into the water and attacking them ‘multiple times’.
A search of Morgan’s GMC truck revealed empty cans of Michelob Ultra beer, drug paraphernalia including grinders, bongs and a ‘cigarillo package containing a green leafy substance rolled into a blunt … consistent with marijuana.’
Dotson’s gun was legally owned and he had no known criminal history. He declined to speak with DailyMail.com when reached on the phone, saying: ‘Do not call me again’.
‘Drew was my friend,’ Ayers said. ‘But I will never understand the way he was acting that day – it’s like a demon possessed his body’
Oconee Sheriff Mike Crenshaw (pictured) said his team found no evidence to link the Lake Keowee shooting to any previous incident or argument. If any new evidence emerges he said he would be happy to investigate further
According to the report he told investigators he saw ‘snot and foam’ coming from Morgan’s mouth when he helped him on to the pontoon.
Dotson said Morgan tried to take over the boat, pushing his wife out of the way, prompting him to fetch his gun and slip it into his waistband.
‘At one point while he and his wife are holding the young man he fires a warning shot to try to make him stop but it doesn’t work,’ the report states.
‘Mr Dotson then says he gets a hold of his arm and that the young man is bending it and he pistol whips him a few times striking him in the head … he then said he tried to attack him again and fearing for his safety he shot him.’
The report states that Debra tried praying with Morgan to calm him down before dialing 911 and begging for help.
The two men could be heard struggling in the background before a shot rang out, according to the report. ‘He just had to shoot him, please hurry,’ Debra told the operator.
Morgan’s estranged wife Joy Morgan, 36, told DailyMail.com her ex smoked cannabis regularly but was accustomed to its effects.
‘It would never have made him belligerent. It had nothing to do with what happened on the lake. None of this makes any sense to me,’ she said.
Police are seen responding after Morgan was shot dead on Lake Keowee. Officials declared it ‘self-defense’ and cleared Dotson, a Vietnam veteran
Ayers says Morgan got in touch on Monday March 14 inviting her to go jet skiing on Lake Keowee (pictured), an 18,500-acre reservoir near the state’s northwest border with North Carolina and Georgia
‘I can’t understand how they can complete a thorough investigation in two days. Intoxication and belligerence doesn’t warrant the death penalty.’
Friends also point to another violent incident in October 2020 when Morgan was shot at while he helped a female friend retrieve her belongings from an ex-boyfriend’s house.
A 25-year-old man, Justin Duncan, faces an attempted murder charge for firing into the back window of the pair’s car as they drove away.
Duncan turned himself in and surrendered his revolver to law enforcement, according to an incident report.
DailyMail.com has learned that Duncan is a cousin of Dotson’s daughter-in-law however the older man told cops they had never met and he was unaware who Duncan was.
‘I’m not saying the two are connected. But I hope it’s something they would at least look into,’ said Caleb Williamson, 27, Morgan’s best friend.
‘Drew didn’t have a mean bone in his body. If he was hurting them so bad, why didn’t they have any wounds?’
Ayers told DailyMail.com that she noticed en route that Morgan, father to a ten year old boy (pictured together), was slurring his words and she was concerned enough that she drove the last leg of the journey
Morgan, a resident of Walhalla, is survived by his son, according to his obituary
Oconee Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said his team found no evidence to link the Lake Keowee shooting to any previous incident or argument. If any new evidence emerges he said he would be happy to investigate further.
Investigators are still awaiting the results of a toxicology screen that will determine whether there were any further narcotics in Morgan’s system.
‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to Drew’s family and we continue to pray for them,’ Sheriff Crenshaw added.
‘I think the community also needs to pray for this 74-year-old man and his wife who were just out on the lake, on their boat, saw some folks in distress and went to offer aid.
‘They had no intention or even thoughts of having to use deadly force on that day. They will live with this for the rest of their lives.’