Bullet fired in attempted armed robbery hits innocent vehicle

Published 1:40 pm Thursday, December 17, 2009

An armed robbery Monday afternoon could have ended very badly, but luck rode with the driver of a car struck by a bullet.

At about 12:29 p.m., the Picayune Police Department received a call concerning a bullet possibly striking a vehicle traveling east on Rosa Street near Lewis Circle. Officers were told by the victim that as she drove down the street to pick up her child, she heard what sounded like a tire blowout. However, she noticed the windows in the rear doors of her vehicle had been shattered, so she then suspected her vehicle was hit by a bullet, said Deputy Chief David Ervin.

She looked around and saw a vehicle speeding away from the area of Lewis Circle and then called police. As it turned out, a bullet had hit her car, coming from an area of an armed robbery involving a separate vehicle that had just taken place on Lewis Circle.

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Ervin said that just before the victim’s car had been hit with the bullet, the other vehicle was driving on Lewis Circle and was flagged down by a group of teenagers. When the vehicle pulled up to the group, they robbed that person of a watch at gunpoint. The robbery victim then sped away and one of the suspects in the group fired a handgun at the vehicle. One of the shots fired at the escaping car is believed to be the bullet that hit the other victim’s car as it was driving down Rosa Street.

Officers arrived to investigate the victim’s suspicion that her car had been hit by a bullet. Since it was determined the shot came from Lewis Circle, the officers first looked in that area for a bullet casing, but could not find one. They then checked the area of Rosa Street and South Side Elementary for a bullet, where the victim’s car windows had been shattered, Ervin said. A bullet was not recovered in the search.

The officers also contacted school officials to see if everyone was okay. Ervin said no injuries were reported from anyone at the school and at the time of the shooting, no children were outside in the playground.

A community member later provided the department with identifying information of suspects believed to be involved in the shooting and armed robbery. Three suspects’ physical descriptions were provided to officers, and based on those descriptions, two suspects, 18 year-old Brandon Kennard and 18 year-old Armand Davis, both of 2402 Jackson Landing Rd., were located and brought to the police department for questioning. While officers were questioning Davis and Kennard, a third suspect was spotted walking along Beech Street near Herrin Drive by community members who reported the whereabouts to the police department.

Officers found the suspect, identified as 17 year-old Leon Washington of 161 Elouise St., who was accompanied by 18 year-old Jonathan Banks Jr., of 620 Lewis Circle. Washington attempted to flee but was captured and searched. Washington was found to have a black, 9 mm handgun concealed in his waistband. Ervin said the handgun was secured and Washington was taken into custody. Banks also was searched and found to be in possession of marijuana, Ervin said. Banks was later linked to the robbery on Lewis Circle.

Initial investigation shows Washington allegedly fired the handgun during the incident.

Two of the suspects, Washington and Banks, are also being charged with burglary of a home that took place prior to the armed robbery and shooting. In that burglary, the handgun believed to have been used by Washington in the armed robbery was taken from a residence on Lewis Circle.

Washington is charged with armed robbery, residential burglary, possession of a concealed weapon, discharging a firearm within the city limits and aggravated assault. Kennard and Davis are both charged with armed robbery. Banks was charged with possession of a controlled substance, armed robbery and burglary, Ervin said.

Ervin and Chief Jim Luke said they and the rest of the department appreciate the community members who came forward with information that led to the identification and apprehension of the suspects.

“It was the community’s information that helped us bring this to a quick resolve,” Luke said.

This is the fifth reported shooting within the city limits of Picayune this year. Ervin said this incident is unique in that it occurred near a school in the middle of the day. Also, the bullet that hit the victim’s rear door windows possibly could have struck the woman’s child had that child been in the car.

“We have a situation here where it was a very near miss, with a high probability of a child being shot,” Ervin said. “Had her baby been in that car seat, without a doubt that child would have been shot.”

Ervin also said the close proximity to a school and the time of day could have ended badly had children been on the playground at the time.

“We’re not going to tolerate this situation. We’re not going to allow the streets of Picayune to turn into the wild west.” Ervin said.

“This is serious business and we’re serious about stopping this type of activity that puts our citizens in danger,” Luke said.