On June 18 at approximately 11:25 p.m., the Mobile Police Department responded to the Wingate Hotel at 516 Springhill Plaza Court for a call of shots fired and one down. Arriving, officers discovered 25-year-old Keres Mantil Holloway lying in the entrance of the lobby with a gunshot to his arm and chest. He was transported to the University of South Alabama Medical Center where he died from his wounds.
Roughly 48 hours later, police were on the scene of another shooting. This time, officers arrived to the 300 block of Ridge Street to find 19-year-old Dave Populus dead from a gunshot.
In a year that started relatively slow, the past three months have seen 13 murders in the Mobile police jurisdiction, contributing to a near mid-year total of 18. While the city is not quite on pace to break any annual homicide records, Police Chief James Barber said there are some obvious trends in 2014’s cases.
“The big trend with homicide we’ve seen lately is drug-related homicide,” he said. “Most homicides are between parties who are known to each other and often they are heat-of-the-moment, passion-type crimes … but we’ve been challenged pretty heavily by the introduction of spice from an over-the-counter drug that went to street-level dealers.”
In six of the 18 cases, including the two most recent, no arrests have been made, but Barber indicated some of those homicides may be related to more widespread criminal activity that is currently the subject of a larger investigation.
He singled out back-to-back murders on Next Street in May and several others in the vicinity of Webb Avenue as being particularly unusual.
“All of them are in a nexus of spice-related criminal organizations, and that’s an extensive operation because of the criminal organization involved,” he said of the ongoing investigation. “It involves intelligence as well as the homicide unit.”
Barber spoke of taking an “offender-oriented approach,” to solving those murders, where the organizations are “attacked” by the department’s intelligence to develop the information homicide needs in order to prosecute the suspects.
“There are two main components of homicide and if you can figure out why it happened and how it happened, you can usually determine who did it,” Barber said. “But that doesn’t mean you have enough evidence to prosecute. You also have to rely on witness testimony, forensic evidence and statements from the defendant, if they are willing to provide them.”
Except for three, all of Mobile’s murder victims in 2014 have died from gunshot wounds. The exceptions were 19-year-old Tyrone Gable, who succumbed to blood loss after jumping through a glass window to escape a domestic altercation June 9, 23-month-old Christian Henderson, a toddler who appears to have been beaten and 23-year-old Quentavious Battiste, who was stabbed by his girlfriend.
The aggressor in the Gable case, 20-year-old Jimmie Lee Taite, was charged with felony murder even though he never directly attacked the victim.
“From a police standpoint, we see people with no criminal record at all commit homicide,” Barber said, noting that Gable died while Taite was committing a breaking-and-entering and assault on another individual on the property.
Mobile reported a total of 27 homicides in 2013, which was down from a 10-year high of 42 in 2008. This year, five cases initially reported as homicide have been dismissed as justifiable, a number Barber said was “extremely high.”
“Homicide by definition merely means the killing of one human being by another and by itself is not a crime,” he said. “‘Justifiable’ means that if you are trying to protect yourself from serious injury or death whereas unjustifiable are those with any malice or intent and those are called ‘murder’ under the criminal statute we use.”
Barber said any perceived “uptick” in the number of recent murders is the result of “disorganized, violent, inner-city crime,” but he wouldn’t dismiss the cases as typical.
“I think there is every reason in the world to be alarmed,” he said, repeating his talking point that spice could be as threatening to the community as crack cocaine was in the 1980s. Since then, “we have had a lot of success but now we have spice entering the scene and that’s why you’re seeing this large effort to stop it before it becomes an epidemic.”
2014 Homicides by date:
• Jan. 6 – Charles David Busby, 32, was fatally shot in the 7500 block Bellingrath Road. An initial investigation has determined the death was the result of a robbery attempt. Three people have been arrested in the case: Daniel Dwayne Bell, Justin Miles Harbison and Nicholas Spain.
• Feb. 18 – Eric Rynard Davis, 22, was found inside his car with multiple gunshot wounds at the intersection of Old Shell Road and Sage Avenue. There have been no arrests in the case.
• Feb. 22 – Anthony Dunnigan, 26, was shot dead in the 600 block of Azalea Road. Two days later, 26-year-old Arnez Wilkerson turned himself in. Police say the two were involved in an ongoing dispute.
• March 18 – Christian Henderson, 23 months old, died after sustaining blunt-force trauma to his abdomen. His father, 24-year-old John Henderson, who initially told hospital staff that Christian had fallen from a high chair, was later arrested for his murder.
• March 25 – Maureen Day, 53, was shot and killed in her home on Repoll Road. The same day, police arrested Day’s son, 26-year-old Derek Boyce, who they believe murdered Day in a domestic dispute.
• April 12 – Quentavious Battiste, 23, was stabbed by his girlfriend Shamaya Wrice in a domestic dispute on Sumner Drive.
• April 26 – Tremayne Thomas, 35, was shot in the 1900 block of Jones Avenue during an apparent early-morning robbery. No arrests have been made.- OPEN
• April 27 – Antonio Crawford, 23, was shot and killed on a Houston Street porch. Police later arrested 45-year-old Joseph Hunt Booth, who they claim attempted to conceal and tamper with evidence at the scene.
• May 10 – Timothy Hunter, 42, was shot and killed at his home on Dwight Court. Hunter’s 28-year-old stepson, Kendis Chambers, was arrested and charged with the murder.
• May 11 – Zachary Scott Alston, 20, was shot and killed near the intersection of Pointer and Setter roads in Theodore. U.S. Marshals later apprehended 20-year-old Arlando Nichols in the Atlanta area. He was extradited to Mobile and charged with murder.
• May 13 – George Allen Williams, 23, was shot to death in the 1400 block of Next Street. There have been no arrests in the case.
• May 14 – Clifford Lee West, 39, was shot to death just hours after Williams at the same location on Next Street. No arrests have been made in the case.
• May 19 – Hassan Johnson, 20, was discovered with multiple bullet wounds in a car on Satchel Paige Drive. 33-year-old Derrick Lamar Davis has been arrested for the crime.
• June 3 – Kenneth Ray Bell, 56, died one day after being shot by 44-year-old Michael Antonio Russell in a verbal dispute at a motel on the I-65 Service Road. Russell was arrested and charged with murder.
• June 9 – Tyrone Gable, 19, died from blood loss after leaping from a window on Church Street. 20-year-old Jimmie Lee Taite, who stormed onto the property to assault his ex-girlfriend, was charged in Gable’s death.
• June 15 – Anthony McCune, 29, was shot on Olive Court. 21-year-old Darrin Cornell Williams was charged with murder.
• June 18 – Keres Mantil Holloway, 25, was found in the lobby of the Wingate Hotel at 516 Springhill Plaza Court with gunshot wounds to his arm and chest. No arrests have been made in the case.
• June 20 – Dave Populus, 19, was found in the 300 block Ridge Street with fatal gunshot wounds. UPDATE 06.25.14: Suspect Darrius Chestnut apprehended in connection with the shooting.