Nearly nine months after 11 men were shot on North Iowa Street in Lakeland, Nicholas Quinton Hanson, 31, and Marcus Dewonn Mobley, Jr., 23, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to felony charges and now face a maximum of 15 years in federal prison.
Hanson was convicted of possessing ammunition, while Mobley is guilty of possessing a firearm and ammunition — both as convicted felons. The U.S. Attorney’s office said sentencing dates have not been set yet.
The men were convicted of weapons charges, not attempted murder, because none of the victims would cooperate with detectives investigating the case.
“For persons crimes, you have to have a victim,” Lakeland Police Lt. Joe Parker told LkldNow. “With a murder, it’s different. That becomes a capital offense … but if they’re alive and they’re saying ‘I don’t want to be a victim,’ it’s like battery.”
“Whether it’s because they want to get street justice, or because they feel like if their name is on an affidavit there will be more retaliation coming … if we don’t have a victim, we can’t be the victims,” Parker said, adding that’s why LPD works hard to build relationships in the community.
Chaos on a Monday afternoon
The largest shooting in Lakeland’s history took place Monday, Jan. 30, at 3:43 p.m. — about one minute after a school bus dropped off children — on North Iowa Avenue, between Plum Street and Memorial Boulevard. It left 11 men, ages 20 to 35, injured, two of them critically. No one died.
Security camera footage showed a dark-blue, four-door Nissan sedan with a temporary paper tag slowed down on North Iowa and four masked men with weapons fired non-stop for six seconds from the windows of the still-moving vehicle toward both sides of the street, where the victims were playing cards.
According to plea agreements with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tampa, Mobley was the owner of that Nissan Altima.
“Evidence collected from Hanson and Mobley’s cellphones showed they communicated prior to, and after, the shooting,” a statement released Wednesday afternoon said. “Hanson’s and Mobley’s DNA was recovered from spent shell casings found at the scene of the shooting.”
United States Attorney Roger Handberg did not comment on the case.
Two other men and a juvenile were also arrested in connection to the case.
Booker Green, was charged with tampering with evidence for trying to dispose of the car used during the shooting. He had a pretrial status hearing this week and awaits trial.
Brent Johnson III, 20, 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.
On Nov. 30, Johnson was arrested by Lakeland Police on an unrelated 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. He is awaiting trial in both cases, with a hearing scheduled for the Iowa Street shooting case on Nov. 7.
The juvenile, Christian Fennell, 15, was charged with two local felony charges: Possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition by a delinquent. Because he is a juvenile, his records are not accessible to the public.
Chain of events began with a drug debt
The man investigators say ordered the shooting, 21-year-old Alex Michael Greene, died on Feb. 6 after fleeing from law enforcement, carjacking a 64-year-old woman and then being shot by a Lakeland Police captain. The officer was found justified in the shooting. A possible motive was an unpaid drug debt to Greene.
Chief Taylor said Greene, 21, might have ordered the shooting in retaliation and supplied the weapons, altering some of them to make them fully automatic.
Lakeland Police joined a Gang Task Force following the shooting, which also includes the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and every Polk County police department.
Taylor said none of the victims in the case would cooperate with investigators and so none of the defendants involved were charged with attempted murder.
“Today’s plea agreement represents a pivotal moment in our unwavering pursuit of justice, standing as a testament to the collaborative hard work of our local, state, and federal law enforcement professionals,” Taylor said. “It is also a reflection of the unyielding commitment from the federal prosecution teams to seek justice for all victims and their families.”
Taylor thanked United States Attorney Handberg for “his swift actions in this case,” as well local and state partners.
“It has been truly humbling to witness the extraordinary dedication and the countless hours invested in this case by our law enforcement officers, forensics and intelligence units, and all those who played a crucial role,” Taylor said. “I also want to express my sincere appreciation to State Attorney Brian Haas, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their invaluable contributions.”
Warning for those involved in gang activity
Taylor had a warning for those involved in gang or violent activity in Lakeland.
“These convictions are not solely about delivering justice; they also carry a powerful message. They convey a message that those who choose to engage in acts of violence will be held accountable for their actions,” Taylor said. “The men and women of the Lakeland Police Department remain resolute in our commitment to ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens. We will persistently work to address the root causes of violence, striving to ensure that our citizens can enjoy a safe and thriving community.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office said the case was also investigated by the Strategic Pattern Armed Robbery Technical Apprehension (SPARTA) unit of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Attorney’s Office for Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher F. Murray.
“This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement said.
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