The federal government has charged a Detroit man with illegally buying the gun for a 19-year-old who authorities say fatally shot Detroit police officer Loren Courts last week, allegedly telling the teen: “Don’t do nothing f—– – stupid because my name is on (the gun).”
These allegations were detailed in a criminal complaint filed Sunday in US District Court, where 26-year-old Sheldon Avery Thomas is charged with lying about a gun purchase he made in June, pretending he was buying it for himself but then handing it over to another man outside a White Castle hamburger joint.
Authorities say that man was Ehmani Davis, the 19-year-old accused of killing officer Courts, and then winding up dead himself after responding officers shot and killed him at the scene.
Davis allegedly got the gun one month earlier from Thomas, who made a virtual appearance in federal court Sunday and was charged with making false statements during the purchase of a firearm, a federal crime. He was ordered temporarily detained pending a detention hearing on Tuesday.
According to a criminal complaint filed in US District Court, following the July 6 killing of Courts near Joy Road and Marlow Street, federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency conducted a trace on the weapon that was used in the killing—a Romam/Cigir, Draco, 7.62caliber pistol.
They learned that it was purchased from the Action Impact gun shop in Eastpointe on June 7, one month before the officer’s death, the complaint states. A review of records and surveillance video from that day shows that Thomas purchased the gun and later met with Davis in a nearby parking lot.
According to federal prosecutors, Thomas lied when in he bought the gun by stating that he was the actual purchaser of it — not that he was buying it for someone else.
But it wasn’t Thomas’s first time in the gun shop, they alleviated.
According to the criminal complaint, Thomas had initially tried to buy a gun from the same shop on May 29.
“However, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) provided a ‘delayed’ response, which prevented Thomas from obtaining the firearm,” the complaint states.
Federal agents also reviewed surveillance video from Action Impact that captured Thomas trying to buy the gun on May 29. Footage showed Thomas and Davis walking into the store at approximately the same time, with the two remaining close together while Thomas shopped for firearms and completed the firearm transaction paperwork, court records state.
ATF agents also reviewed video surveillance from the same store on June 7, records state, as well as paperwork that Thomas filled out when he bought the Draco pistol and indicated that “he was the actual buyer of the firearm.”
“Thomas signed his name certifying his answers were true, correct, and complete … (and) signed the form acknowledging that providing any false statement on the form was punishable as a felony under federal law,” the complaint states.
That same day, surveillance video from neighboring buildings showed Thomas carry the pistol and meet with an individual that appeared to be Davis in the parking lot of a White Castle in Eastpointe, the complaint states.
The investigation would eventually lead federal agents to Thomas’s home.
On Saturday, ATF agents obtained a federal search warrant and raided Thomas’s home in Detroit that same day, recovering the following items:
- A Draco pistol sales record for Sheldon Avery Thomas, bearing serial number 21DG-3219.
- Receipts from Action Impact for a “Century Arms Draco”, containing serial number “21DG3219”, and two boxes of ammunition.
- The bottom of the Action Impact receipt contained a section that stated, “Loyal Customer: SHELDON THOMAS.”
According to the complaint, Thomas agreed to speak with agents that day after being read his Miranda rights, and admitted to purchasing a Draco firearm for his friend “Monie,” to traveling to action Impact on two separate days, and that his background check was delayed — which caused him to return on a different day to buy the pistol.
Agents showed Thomas a photograph of Davis.
Thomas positively identified him as the man he knew as “Monie.”
Thomas said that Davis game him $50 to buy him the pistol, that the two met after he made the purchase and walked to a nearby gas station.
Thomas also told the agents that he didn’t have a car, and that Davis provided him with a ride because, as Thomas allegedly put it: “You can’t get a Lyft with a full on Draco”.
According to the complaint, after giving Davis the gun, Thomas recalled telling him: “Don’t do nothing f—— stupid because my name is on it (the gun).”
‘I still got that cheese for u’
Federal agents also reviewed text messages between Thomas and Davis and observed the following messages from June 2:
DAVIS: “Gang call up there today I still got that cheese for u”
THOMAS: “Give me that number again.”
Davis provided a number. It was for Action Impact.
THOMAS: “They said till the 7th”.
DAVIS: “Damn bet it up gang”.
On June 07, Davis and Thomas exchanged the following text messages:
THOMAS: “I’m ready”
DAVIS: “Where you at?”
Thomas replied with an address, then later that day sent the following message:
“I’m at the bustop (sic) right by White Castle”.
‘Lying and buying’
Under federal law, lying about buying a gun for someone else carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine.
“The tragic death of Officer Courts is one more terrible example of what happens when guns are supplied to those who are prohibited from possessing them,” US Attorney Dawn Ison stated in announcing the federal charges. “This case should serve as a warning to those thinking about straw purchasing firearms — you will face federal charges.”
Added Detroit’s ATF chief Paul Vanderplow: “Straw purchases — ‘lying and buying’ — is not a victimless crime. The men and women at the AFT will find and remove those individuals from the community who enable violent criminals terrorizing our State … As promised, commit crimes with firearms, and find out the ATF will be at your door.””
Detroit Chief James White added:
“As we all grieve the shocking and devastating loss of our hero, Officer Courts, the Detroit Police Department remains steadfast in its mission to serve and protect … We will continue to collaborate with our local and federal partners to stop these dangerous individuals from victimizing our community. “
An attorney for Thomas could not be immediately reached for comment.