Neighbor: Suspected killer was frustrated over lack of opportunity

A neighbor of the suspected killer of 19-year-old Karson Whitesell believes his neighbor was frustrated with the lack of opportunities in South Carolina after moving from Puerto Rico with his mother, and that may have been a factor in the killing.

“I’m guessing that he might have just got fed up, and he just happen to see the first person he saw, and it was her, and he might have just went ahead and shot her,” Patrick Benson said.

Benson has only known 28-year-old Christopher Benjamin Mendez for 4 or 5 months.

Benson says Mendez and his mom moved to the Palmetto Place Apartments on Pardue Street in Lancaster from Puerto Rico after hurricanes devastated the island just months ago.
“And he was trying to make a better life for his mom and basically his family,” Benson said.

Mendez was the household provider, according to Benson, and he worked at Goodwill.
“He acted just as normally as he ever did.”

Benson didn’t notice a change in Mendez’s behavior recently, but he says he seems to have switched up his routine slightly.

“I haven’t seen his car outside lately, and I been thinking he’s been going to work earlier than he normally does.”

But nothing could prepare Benson for what he found out Tuesday--his neighbor is accused of gunning down 19-year-old Karson Whitesell, who was working at the Peach Stand in Fort Mill, about 30 miles away from Mendez’s home, in what appears to be a random murder. Police say Mendez just waited for them to get there and arrest him.

“I think he might have just had a nervous breakdown and he ended up locked up killing somebody,”

Benson just wishing he could have talked to his neighbor before the shooting.

“I say you wouldn’t want anybody killing your mother. I wouldn’t want you to go out killing somebody’s mother, daughter, father.”

“I still consider him family no matter what he done. I still consider him like a brother to me.”

But he hurts for Karson’s family too, wishing he could tell them this---“Everything will be alright. Justice will be served on your behalf.”