A 17-year-old boy has admitted to opening fire during a botched robbery that he and several other Coffee County youths planned at school -- the attempted heist leaving one man dead and six others looking at the possibility of life behind bars.
Sam Brinkley, 17, has reportedly admitted to police he was the one who opened fire Tuesday morning with an SKS assault rifle and killed Osbaldo Luna, 43, inside the camper in which he lived behind The Detail Shop on Beersheba Street. Luna also worked there.
The military-style assault, complete with guns one of the youths said he took from his mother’s collection, was aimed at stealing what they thought was a large amount of marijuana held by Luna. That cache of drugs did not exist and there’s suspicion the victim may have been shot to death in his sleep.
“There were shell casings all over the floor of the camper,” said McMinnville police detective Todd Rowland, who investigated the murder scene after the victim’s body was found by a relative Tuesday morning. “I think the CSI team recovered nine casings so far.”
In his confession, Brinkley claimed he panicked when one of his accomplices jerked open the door to Luna’s trailer for him to go inside to rob the victim.
“He (Brinkley) said he thought Luna was a drug cartel member and was afraid he would get shot when he went in,” Rowland testified Thursday during a detention hearings for the four juveniles charged in the case.
The adults, Tyler Allen Jones, 19, and Nicholas D. McGee, 20, will face hearing later in adult court. The other juveniles, all 17, will face transfer hearings to be tried as adults on criminal homicide. The other juveniles include Charles Guess, Malik Scott and Melvin Horn. All the suspects are from Coffee County.
“He said he fired seven or eight rounds,” Rowland said of Brinkley’s recollection of the rapid succession of shots.
Lawmen are awaiting the autopsy to determine how many times Luna was hit. However, Brinkley admitted to returning to the trailer a few minutes after the shooting as his friends went to wait at the Mt. Leo carwash.
“He said the victim appeared to be dead when he went back inside,” said Rowland, noting Brinkley took the victim’s wallet and a small bag of marijuana.
It was that theft that led to his arrest just moments later in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday morning, several hours before the victim’s body was found or police even knew there was a murder.
Sheriff’s Deputy Newman Ford was on patrol on Beersheba Street when he saw a white Ford Explorer pull into the carwash located next to the business where the murder was committed. Ford noted it was 3 a.m. and very cold outside and that he saw a second vehicle near the car wash.
“I thought it was a drug deal going down,” said Ford, noting he turned around and found a black Maxima still parked behind the car wash. The white vehicle had gone. “I saw a head stick up from the back seat.”
Ford said when he approached the car he found Horn and Guess inside along with three long guns. They included an SKS, an AK-47 and a 22-caliber Savage rifle. The youths were asked to get out of the car and Guess maintained the guns belonged to his mother and he and his friends had been out recreational shooting earlier.
Moments later, Ford said he heard movement and noticed Brinkley walking toward him from the direction of the murder scene. He had a bag of marijuana sticking out of his pocket and was holding a coat. A search of his person revealed an ID belonging to Luna. Ford said he also found a duffle bag with gloves, masks, hammer and knife in the car.
“Those are burglary tools,” Ford testified, adding the teens were all taken into custody at that point.
The youths were still at Warren County Jail being held on the charges when Luna’s body was found. Once investigators working on the murder found out about the incident the night before, they wasted little time in obtaining confessions from all six suspects.
“Their stories were pretty well all the same with some minor differences,” Rowland testified, noting Guess was the first to talk and that he admitted he had originally snuck into the fenced yard where Luna’s camper was located.
“There were three of them, all armed,” Rowland said of Brinkley, Horn and Guess, noting they quietly maneuvered to the outside of the camper where Guess said they were close enough he could hear Luna snoring inside. However, he was surprised when they opened the door to go in. “A cat jumped out and they got scared and ran off.”
The group drove around for a while before deciding to return. This time Guess refused to go back so he was replaced by Scott, while the others stood lookout.
“Mr. Guess said when the others got back, they were all shook up and Brinkley had shot the guy when he went into the camper,” Rowland said.
The four juveniles were ordered held pending a Feb. 4 hearing during which prosecutors will seek to have them tried as adults. In making the decision, Juvenile Court Judge Bill Locke pointed to the seriousness of the crime and added all four juveniles were on probation for various crimes in Coffee County when they committed the crime.
“It’s in the best interests of these young men and the public that they be detained pending further hearing,” Locke announced in front of a half full court gallery where many relatives and friends of the suspects were watching.