By Mike Smith
DUNCAN — Police say there are personal ties among some of the teens accused in the shooting death of an Australian and suspects in local convenience store robberies, crimes in Kansas and a pawnshop burglary in Stigler that brought stolen guns to Duncan.
One of the guns from the pawnshop burglary is believed to have been used in the convenience store robberies last March. A .22-caliber revolver used in the Aug. 16 drive-by shooting of Christopher Lane could have been taken in that burglary as well, Police Capt. Jay Evans said.
However, that gun still has not been found. Police are looking at the possibility the teens got it from one of their relatives. Other avenues are also being explored, Evans said.
Chancey Luna, 16, and James Edwards Jr., 15, are charged with first-degree murder in Lane’s death. Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, faces charges for driving a car from which a firearm was fired and trying to cover up the crime.
Evans said police were familiar with each of the teens accused in the drive-by shooting and those with whom they associated, including four people charged in the convenience store robberies and one also tied to burglaries in Kansas and the pawnshop burglary.
“These are not people that we did not know,” Evans said. He declined to elaborate “other than we are familiar with them (and) not in a good way. We are quite familiar with all of them.”
The gun believed to have been used in the convenience store robberies was found when a search warrant was executed at a house on Country Club Road that helped lead to the arrest of three young men and a 17-year-old. They are in the Stephens County Jail on robbery charges.
That house on Country Club is the same one the teens were in when they saw Lane go jogging by and followed him in a car, with one teen allegedly shooting him in the back. Evans declined to say if that house had been searched in connection with the Aug. 16 shooting.
Evans explained the ties between acquaintances and crimes like this:
• On Sept. 30, 2010, the Allied Home Improvement Store and McCormick’s Paint and Floor Covering in Duncan were burglarized. More than $30,000 was seized from the home improvement store.
Police say five people — two adults and three juveniles — were responsible for the burglary. Four of the five then went to Kansas, where they were arrested in connection with numerous store burglaries there.
Evans said he was not sure what punishment they received.
• One of the juveniles arrested in those burglaries was later involved in the burglary of a gun and pawnshop in Stigler, a town of about 2,700, on Feb. 13.
Evans said he believes the juvenile turned 18 before the pawnshop burglary. But before he was arrested for that, he is believed to have brought some of the stolen guns to Duncan.
• One of the stolen guns — a semi-automatic pistol — was later found in a bedroom of the house on Country Club Road when police were investigating the robberies of the convenience stores in Duncan in late March.
Evans said the person tied to the burglaries in Duncan and the pawnshop in Stigler knew the four people charged in the Duncan robberies, and he and those suspects knew one or more of the teens accused in the drive-by shooting.
Police were familiar with the four charged in the robberies.
In fact, when police were reviewing video and audio surveillance tapes from the robberies, an officer recognized the voice of one of the suspects. Another officer recognized a backpack one of the other suspects was wearing.
A preliminary hearing in the robbery case began Aug. 13 and Evans was told that all three of the teens charged in the drive-by shooting attended the proceedings. That was just three days before the drive-by shooting.
Although Evans said police were familiar with those in all the cases, and some of the defendants were acquaintances of each other, police have no say about what happens in the juvenile justice system.
He noted that James Edwards Jr., one of the three teens accused in the drive-by shooting, met an official at the Stephens County Courthouse about a juvenile legal matter 30 minutes after Lane was shot and killed on Country Club Road.
“That just tells me what kind of thoughts he had about the system,” he said. “We can only do what the juvenile system will allow us to do.”
Mike Smith writes for the Duncan Banner.