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Police: Complaints Spur Criminal-on-Criminal Attacks

Police: Complaints Spur Criminal-on-Criminal Attacks

[From left to right] Martin, Tennison, Younce, Keeton

Kansas City Star via YellowBrix

August 16, 2010

KANSAS CITY, KS – From the criminal’s perspective, they are the ideal victims — other criminals.

A gang of robbers, often masquerading as police officers, targeted other criminals in the months before their arrests this summer, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

At least four armed heists, including one in which a man was shot in the leg, are detailed in a criminal complaint filed against one of the alleged gang members.

While unraveling the far-reaching web of criminal activity, officers have seized drugs, dozens of stolen firearms and other stolen property, including more than 1,000 comic books and a Bobcat.

Criminals bank on the fact that other criminals won’t call police.

“It is something that is very unlikely,” Kansas City Police Capt. Rich Lockhart said.

Typically, police get involved in those cases only when somebody is shot and needs medical attention, Lockhart said.

That’s what happened in the investigation that started May 23 after two suspects wearing black and claiming to be narcotics officers barged into a Waldo-area apartment in Kansas City and shot a resident.

The suspects, allegedly aided by the man’s roommate, thought they would find about two pounds of methamphetamine and a lot of cash, according to the court documents.

Police investigating the shooting found a treasure trove of stolen merchandise, including guns stolen in burglaries from as far away as Nixa, Mo.

Authorities recovered 56 weapons in the Waldo apartment and also found heroin, marijuana and LSD, according to court documents.

In a search of an Overland Park house belonging to the robbery victim’s mother, police found 46 more firearms, including 22 that had been reported stolen.

The man shot in the May 23 robbery, John C. Craig, 34, later was charged in Jackson County Circuit Court with felony counts of receiving stolen property.

In July, a federal grand jury indicted five men in the Waldo robbery. A superseding indictment was handed down last week, accusing the same five men of plotting the robbery to steal cash and methamphetamines. They were also charged with using a firearm during a drug crime. Three of the five were charged with being felons in possession of a firearm.

Those named in the indictment are Steven M. Martin, 56; John O. Younce, 37; Steven L. Younce, 28; Jason M. Keeton, 30; and Vernon Tennison Jr., 26.

All are users of illegal drugs and have criminal records, according to court orders to hold them without bond while the cases are pending.

A sixth man named as a co-conspirator in the indictment, but not charged, was arrested the day before the robbery.

That man, Michael S. Rojas, was charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was arrested in a car near where the Waldo robbery occurred after passing out from what he later described was a multi-day “meth binge.” He possessed a .44-caliber revolver when he was arrested.

Rojas, 35, told investigators that he and some of those involved in the Waldo robbery were members of a street gang from the Northeast area of Kansas City that had been targeting drug dealers because they would be reluctant to contact police.

They specifically sought Hispanic victims because they thought some of them were in the country illegally and would not seek police help, Rojas told investigators.

He described in one robbery how his accomplice grabbed and shook a small child to force the victims to show where they kept drugs and money.

Rojas mentioned two crimes that occurred in May at houses in east Kansas City. He said he and his accomplices dressed like police officers and bound the hands of their victims before taking drugs, money and guns.

Lockhart said police don’t know how often criminal-on-criminal incidents occur.

“There’s no way to measure crime we don’t know about,” he said. “Typically, it’s something they handle themselves.”

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