Two Lakeland men are in federal custody and a juvenile is being held in Bartow in connection with the Jan. 30 shootings that wounded 11 men on North Iowa Avenue — the most shot at one time ever in Lakeland.
U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg, Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and State Attorney Brian Haas announced the arrests on Wednesday afternoon, calling it an all-hands-on-deck operation. They also announced the formation of a gang task force that involves the cooperation of federal, Florida and all Polk County law enforcement agencies.
Nicholas Quinton Hanson, 32, and Marcus Dewonn Mobley, Jr., 22, are charged with possession of ammunition by convicted felons. Mobley is also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Each faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
A third man, Booker Green, is being charged with tampering with evidence for trying to dispose of the car used during the shooting.
The juvenile, Christian Fennell, 15, is being held on two local felony charges: Possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition by a delinquent.
FEB. 18 UPDATE: Authorities arrested Brent Johnson III, 19, on Feb. 16. He faces multiple drug and weapons charges, including grand theft of a firearm and possession of a firearm by an adjudicated delinquent, with a gang enhancement.
When he was 17 years old, Johnson was charged in 2020 with armed burglary and theft of a firearm. He plead no contest but was “adjudged delinquent (with) juvenile sanctions in adult court” last July.
On Nov. 30, Johnson was arrested by Lakeland Police on a minor drug charge and another charge of grand theft of a firearm. Witnesses said someone in a car in which he was riding was waving a black firearm out the window of a red car. Johnson was found in the back seat of a red Toyota, a book bag within reach of him with a black handgun inside. The arrest affidavit states the Smith & Wesson, M&P, .40 caliber handgun was stolen. Chief Sam Taylor said on Saturday that LPD was handling that case, as well.
One other man, Marquez Green, is also wanted for questioning in connection to the shooting.
According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Hanson, Mobley, Fennell and at least one – possibly two – others conducted the drive-by shooting just moments after a school bus let out elementary school children.
Handberg said the suspects in the Jan. 30 shooting were in a blue Nissan Altima. Video shows the car slowing down and six seconds of non-stop shooting at men gathered along the roadway playing cards.
Police today released a map showing the route they believe the Nissan took the afternoon of the shooting:
Handberg said Hanson and Mobley have been in federal custody and appeared in federal court within the last week.
Taylor said a possible motive was an unpaid drug debt to Alex Greene. Taylor said Greene, 21, might have ordered the shooting in retaliation and supplied the weapons, altering some of them. Greene was the target of law enforcement surveillance last week when police say he ran from them in a white Chevy Silverado. LPD Capt. Eric Harper pursued Greene through Eagle Lake and Winter Haven, shooting Greene when Greene tried to run over Harper after carjacking a 64-year-old woman’s Toyota Camry. Greene drove about 100 yards away and crashed into a building, with Harper and other LPD detectives arriving moments later to perform CPR. Greene died at Winter Haven Hospital.
Handberg said “the teamwork and collaboration and coordination that led to the federal charges of these two defendants is just the start of things to come. As the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, I’m the chief federal law enforcement officer for 35 counties in Florida.”
He said the gang task force will meet regularly to review potential cases.
“The task force is going to use the best available information so that we can focus our efforts narrowly on the most violent offenders. And once we’ve identified those violent offenders, the task force will use every available statutory tool to dismantle violent groups here in Polk County,” Handberg said.
“The federal charges in the Hanson and Mobley cases are a perfect example of what you can expect to see in terms of the close coordination and teamwork and what those efforts will yield. You should expect to see methodical investigations resulting in timely charges that will serve to protect the community, promote public safety, reduce violent crime, do justice for the victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.”
The victims all survived, although a 22-year-old and a 29-year old remain hospitalized, one at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and the other at Tampa General Hospital. One was shot in the stomach and the other was shot in the jaw.
Crime scene technicians recovered shell casings from three different types of weapons – 9-millimeter and 5.56 millimeter and a .40 caliber. Lakeland Police recovered the blue Altima the day after the shooting when a citizen spotted it and called police.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said evidence includes DNA collected from some of those shell casings, as well as from the Altima. Mobley’s DNA was recovered from a .40 caliber spent shell casing and the Altima. Hanson’s DNA was recovered from two spent 9-millimeter shell casings. Officers also subsequently seized a loaded, 9-millimeter handgun from Hanson’s home.
While the city, county and federal agency’s top law enforcement officers formed a gang task force, Taylor told LkldNow that the Jan. 30 shooting was more about drugs and money owed.
“A lot of times, these drug dealers will front the dope and say, ‘When you sell it, you’ll have the money to pay me back,’” Taylor explained. “(Greene) dispatched people to shoot up a neighborhood to say, ‘Hey, pay me my money.’”
The task force was formed because of a huge spike in drive-by shootings. According to a list provided by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in 2017, there were two drive by shootings in the entire county. In 2020, the amount spiked to 49, with 20 of those in Lakeland alone. Last year, there were 59, with 24 in Lakeland.
Judd said detectives are investigating these drive-bys and plan to make more arrests under federal racketeering charges.
“There are people that are going to watch your news program and think, ‘Well, I got away with this in the past.’ Oh, maybe you didn’t,” Judd said. “Because racketeering takes in past criminal conduct. And we have all of you that are involved in this under investigation right now. So, pack up your bags. Get your favorite pillow. We’re going to put you in jail. We’re not going to have this.”
Judd, who formed his own gang task force last year, said the new task force is the first time that every law enforcement agency in Polk County, along with state and federal agencies, are fully cooperating. Lakeland Police had chosen last year not to join Judd’s task force.
“If this doesn’t send a message to criminals, those of you who want to do drive-by shootings, we’re coming after you,” Judd said. “You’re not going to shoot up our community, the hard working people, whether it be in a city like mine, or any of these other cities in the unincorporated areas, deserve to be safe, and they are safe.”
Judd said crime, per capita, is at an all-time low, but he pointed out that innocent people are being shot, including three juveniles asleep in their beds in Lake Wales.
Lakeland Police had a Gang Task Force, but because of a perceived drop in gang activity, it was renamed in 2020 as the Community Engagement Task Force.
“We thought that was more appropriate since the gang shootings had really died off and we still wanted to keep the task force together so we just repurposed it,” Taylor said. “I think anybody that has this job takes these incidents very seriously. If these folks that were involved in these shootings wanted our attention, they’ve got our attention.”
Hanson was arrested on Feb. 9 and handed over to federal authorities, who are holding him in another county. His felony adult record begins in 2010 for dealing in stolen property – the state attorney’s office could not proceed with the case. In 2011, he was charged with two burglaries and grand theft for robbing two homes. He was found guilty of both and sentenced to 18 months, with time served and 300 days in the county jail.
Hanson has also spent time at the jail on 2013 charges of gang activity for threatening to kill a woman who called the police when another member began shooting at someone else. He was found guilty and sentenced to six months in jail.
In May 2014, Hanson – along with one of the men wanted for questioning in last month’s mass shooting, Marquez Green — were at a Chevron Station on Memorial Boulevard when Hanson got into a shootout with another person. He was charged with possession of a weapon and ammunition by a convicted felon. His case was transferred to federal court and he served time in prison for that.
“If his (butt) isn’t locked up, he’s shooting at someone,” Judd told LkldNow, adding that people are afraid to testify against him.
Hanson doesn’t appear in Polk County files again until September 2020, when he was arrested when somebody shot at LPD Officer Stephen Pope, who was staking out an apartment to arrest a different man. In January 2022, the State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges, saying there was insufficient evidence to go through with a trial.
As he was awaiting trial on those charges, in early 2021, he was arrested when a man at West Second Street and North Lincoln Avenue was shot at. In December 2021, the State Attorney’s Office was forced to drop the charges because the victim failed to appear in court to testify against Hanson.
Hanson is also facing several local charges, including maintaining a drug house and drug possession, related to the January shooting.
Mobley also has a felony record. In January 2019, he was arrested in connection with shooting out of a car. He was charged with marijuana possession and possession of a concealed weapon. A police officer found a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver in the waistband of his boxer shorts. He was found guilty and sentenced to more than two years in prison, including time served. Two years after the first arrest, he was charged with violation of probation.
The Jan. 30 case was investigated by the Strategic Pattern Armed Robbery Technical Apprehension unit of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Lakeland Police Department, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Attorney’s Office for Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Murray.
Taylor said the men are also facing potential local charges, including possible attempted murder charges.
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