Beaufort News

Oates' defense seeks dismissal of manslaughter charge

Attorneys for a tow-truck driver charged in the Christmas Eve shooting of a Bluffton man have filed a motion to dismiss the case because they say he acted in self-defense.

Preston Ryan Oates, 27, of Bluffton is charged in connection with the shooting death of Carlos Alberto Olivera, 34, during a parking dispute.

Oates' attorneys, Don Colongeli and Jared Newman, say their client should be granted immunity under the state's Castle Doctrine, which gives residents the legal right to protect themselves, their families and others in their homes, businesses and vehicles, according to the motion filed July 28.

The motion argues that Oates, former co-owner of Pro-Tow, was just doing his job enforcing parking regulations in the Edgefield community when he was "accosted" by Olivera and his brother, Nelson.

They say Olivera threatened Oates and brandished a loaded handgun, causing the driver to fear for his life. Oates then acted in self-defense, they argue.

Oates is scheduled to appear at a hearing for the motion the week of Nov. 14, according to the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office.


On the night of the shooting, Oates told Beaufort County sheriff's investigators he retreated to the driver's side of his tow truck after Olivera's family and others began to approach him after he placed a wheel boot on Carlos Olivera's minivan, court documents show.

He told officers he tried to calm the brothers and said he told them he would call his boss at Pro-Tow or a member of the homeowners association to resolve the situation, according to court documents.

Oates told investigators he heard what sounded like a gun being cocked and that Olivera was in mid-draw when Oates fired.

Witnesses have said Olivera did not point a weapon at Oates, but a statement from Nelson Olivera indicates his brother removed a gun from his waistband, showed it to Oates and put it back.

Olivera had a concealed-weapons permit.

He was shot six times -- four times in the back, once in the arm and once in the head -- according to the Solicitor's Office. His gun was found 18 feet from his body, investigators have said.


Oates was released from jail Aug. 31.

After an alleged attempt to escape March 20, he was required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he was a danger to himself or others. A $200,000 bond was set July 28.

Bond terms require Oates, who is staying at an undisclosed location outside Beaufort County, stay under house arrest and be accompanied by a relative.

A Solicitor's Office employee calls once a week to verify Oates is at the site, officials say. He is not allowed to leave unless he has a court appearance, an appointment with his lawyers or an emergency medical situation.

Oates also is ordered to stay away from the Olivera family.

On Tuesday, Solicitor's Office spokesman Daniel Brownstein said the office is not aware of any bond violations.

Follow reporter Cassie Foss at

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  1. Messages tagged on area vehicles protest Bluffton tow-truck driver's release on bond, Oct. 4, 2011
  2. Suspect in Bluffton Christmas Eve fatal shooting freed on bond, Aug. 31, 2011
  3. Motion to dismiss manslaughter charge in Bluffton shooting denied, July 29, 2011
  4. Bond set in deadly Christmas Eve tow truck incident, July 28, 2011
  5. Oates on suicide watch, ordered to 60 days of seclusion after jail-break attempt, March 29, 2011
  6. Bluffton tow-truck driver fails in attempt to break out of jail, March 22, 2011
  7. Tow-truck driver indicted on manslaughter, weapon charges, Feb. 18, 2011
  8. Bond denied for tow truck driver who shot and killed man on Christmas Eve, Jan. 28, 2011
  9. Investigators reveal video of fatal Bluffton Christmas Eve shooting, Jan. 14, 2011
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