COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- It's a story that made national headlines. State Sen. R.C. Soles shot a man outside of his Tabor City house back in August, and was charged with felony assault.
The shooting victim, 22-year-old Kyle Blackburn, was a legal client of Sen. Soles. He refused to cooperate with investigators, and Soles was able to negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, getting off with a misdemeanor assault conviction and a one thousand dollar fine.
Blackburn is now telling his side of the story, explaining that he did not talk before now because he feared for his life. Blackburn says the senator has paid him more than $100,000 over the years to keep quiet about what he knows about him.
Blackburn says he wants to set the record straight about what happened on August 23. That was the day he was shot in the back of the leg by Soles. He says it all started when B.J. Wright came to his house that Sunday afternoon.
"B.J. came over and asked me to go to Mr. Soles's house with him," Blackburn said. "But he kept on insisting that I drive him down there because he didn't have a driver license."
Blackburn and Wright were both legal clients of Soles, and Blackburn said they've been to his house hundreds of times over the years.
"They go down there, and he gives them money," Blackburn said when asked why he and others often go to the senator's home. "And he does things with certain people and gives them money."
When asked about what went on, Blackburn would not comment.
On that August afternoon, Blackburn said they were having a hard time getting Soles to come out of his house.
"We knocked on his bedroom window and walked around and went all the way around to the front," Blackburn said. "B.J. got very upset because Mr. Soles wouldn't talk to him or wouldn't come outside. Probably because he was being bothered on Sunday. I don't know. So he says, 'I know how to get him out of the house.' B.J. backs up in his truck, backs into his flower bed, and starts tearing up his grass. I told B.J., I said, 'B.J., Mr. Soles is going to be very upset. We know he's in the house right now, and we know he's called the law because he didn't come outside, so we need to go ahead and let's leave.'
"B.J. started spinning around again. I said, 'Man, I'm telling you, we're both going to jail.'
"(B.J. Said,) "Don't you worry about it. I'm the "Baby Boy." Mr. Soles ain't gonna call the law on "Baby Boy." I can promise you that.'"
When the doughnuts in the yard didn't do the trick, Blackburn says Wright got out of the car, went up to the front door, and did a karate kick, breaking the door open. Blackburn says that's when Soles came out of the house, he had a gun, and he fired it.
"R.C. comes running around the house with a gun in his hand," Blackburn said. "I just turned around, I said, 'Mr. Soles,' and as soon as I said, 'Mr. Soles,' he turned around and pointed the gun at me. I said, 'Oh, whoa, please don't shoot me. I'm leaving.' And I turned around, started to walk away, and then I heard the gunshot."
Blackburn showed us a picture of the bullet wound. It went in the back of his right thigh, just missing a major artery. He says he lost a lot of blood on the way to the hospital in Loris, SC, drifting in and out of consciousness, and says his doctors told him if he had lost much more blood, he could have died.
On the way to the hospital, Blackburn says Wright concocted another story, hoping to keep the senator out of trouble.
"B.J. told me on the way there.He was telling (my girlfriend) Jessica what to say," Blackburn said. "I could hear it, but it's like I really couldn't talk back. Something about, 'I'm at the state line, and just say a black man shot him, and I don't know why.'"
Blackburn said he went along with Wright's story because he thought it was in his best interest.
"You're messing with a very powerful man," he said. "I mean, he got a thousand-dollar fine for shooting someone in the back of the leg. That's a little bit of pull or something. I don't know. He ain't exactly someone you'd want mad at you. I wouldn't want him mad at me, and I think he's pretty upset with me."
Blackburn said that over the years, Soles has paid him more than $100,000 to keep quiet about things he knows. He said it's the senator's m.o. to throw around a lot of money.
"I've seen $20,000, $30,000 walk out the door with one person," Blackburn said. "He don't give that to anybody."
Blackburn said Allen Strickland and Wright get a lot of money because Soles likes them.
A SBI spokeswoman says Soles is currently under investigation relating to claims of sexual impropriety. We asked Blackburn if he'd ever been molested by the senator.
"I haven't had any kind of sexual dealings with Mr. Soles," he said. "You can put that on the air. I wasn't one of those boys."
Blackburn wouldn't say if he's received any money from Soles since the shooting.
So what's next? Blackburn said he's left Tabor City, and is laying low out of fear for his own safety. His attorney Scott Dorman said Wright experienced a great deal of pain and suffering from his gunshot wound, and they're looking for compensation from Soles.
"We are considering pursuing a civil action on Mr. Soles on kyle's behalf, but we've made no decisions at this time," Dorman said.
Soles's attorney sent us the following comment this afternoon:
"Mr. Blackburn said he did not believe Sen. Soles wanted to shoot him, and he later swore under oath that he did not want Sen. Soles prosecuted. Mr. Blackburn is now coming full circle back to his initial shameful behavior and dishonesty, making ludicrous allegations about Sen. Soles that blatantly contradict what he told the SBI. He and his personal injury lawyer apparently believe that making these absurd statements to the media will somehow pressure senator soles into paying them enormous amounts of money. Sadly, some media outlets are shamelessly assisting them in that shameful tactic. It will not work. It is time for everyone with any dignity and self-respect to move on."