Time will tell more of the story behind the motive in the shooting death of Marco Dukes, 32, and wounding of Larry A. Smith, 29, in Warren on Sunday.
That the two men so far charged with aggravated murder in Dukes’ death are from Detroit is certainly suggestive.
Law enforcement officers know that Detroit is an entry point for illegal drugs that make their way into Trumbull County. The two men arrested in the shooting have prior arrests that involve drugs. One of the men was stopped by police twice, and both times the car contained large amounts of cash. Not so large, however, that either is expected to be able to make the $2.5 million bond set by Judge Terry Ivanchak of Warren Municipal Court.
Dale Hatch, 25, and Derrick Peete, 22, both of Detroit, face charges of aggravated murder and felonious assault. There is every indication that this was a gangland murder, right down to a detail provided by Dukes’ family. Just as in gangland murders of an earlier generation, Dukes received a phone call from someone he knew asking him for a meeting. When Dukes showed up, the bullets began flying, at least some from automatic or semiautomatic weapons.
That little detail could be important, and not only because of the cellphone records that may be available to establish a tie between perpetrator and victim.
Death penalty implications
That level of premeditation and the nature of the assault would give prosecutors at least one and possibly two aggravating circumstances that would warrant seeking the death penalty against both men. The purposeful killing of or attempt to kill two or more people provides one specification. Committing aggravated murder with prior calculation and design provides another.
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin has described this shooting as an embarrassment to the city, coming as it did on a Sunday morning near downtown Warren. But it also provides the city with an opportunity to make a statement to all the hoodlums from Detroit who seem to consider Warren easy pickings.
Anyone who may have aided and abetted the shooters — before or after the crime — should be charged to whatever extent is possible. That is surely a time-consuming prospect for a relatively small police force, but Warren should be getting assistance from anti-crime task forces, the Ohio Attorney General’s office and, since this almost certainly involves trafficking across state lines, the U.S. Justice Department.
During his video arraignment, Hatch was nonchalant. Perhaps it hadn’t yet dawned on him that he could be facing the death penalty. Perhaps he is so hardened that he doesn’t care. But others may not share his confidence, and this is as good a time as any to let them know that Warren is not a good place for them to be doing business.