By Ed Runyan
James Cohen Jr., 25, committed two of the 386 murders that occurred in Detroit in 2012, one of them Oct. 3, 2012, one month before he was arrested in Warren with a fellow Detroit native, Derrick Peete, 24, during a traffic stop.
Peete committed a murder Nov. 11, 2012, and is serving a life prison sentence for it — the killing of Warren native Marco Dukes during a Sunday morning gunbattle near downtown.
Cohen has pleaded guilty in Detroit to killing Todd Eiland, 31, Oct. 3, 2012. Cohen will be sentenced May 16. Police said Eiland suffered 29 gunshot wounds.
It’s unknown what his prison sentence will be, but when he was sentenced in July 2013 for killing Glenn Walker, 40, in Detroit on April 8, 2012, by shooting him 22 times, Cohen got a sentence of 25 to 35 years.
Warren Police Chief Eric Merkel acknowledges that Detroit-area criminals may have found Warren an attractive place to sell drugs in the years after 20 Warren police officers were laid off in 2009 and the department’s narcotics unit was eliminated.
“The narcotics unit was down for a time, but we’re getting it back under control,” Merkel said. “I don’t think it’s what it was. I don’t think it [selling drugs in Warren] is as attractive as it used to be. I think heroin is coming through Detroit, but I don’t think people are setting up camp here.”
Merkel created the Street Crimes Unit just after he became chief last summer, and one of its highest priorities is drug crimes.
“With the Street Crimes Unit and the Safe Streets Initiative, we’ve got U.S. marshals here. You’d be foolish to sell dope in this town,” he said.
The Safe Streets Initiative is from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and gives serious criminals an opportunity to straighten up their lives rather than go to prison.
The Nov. 2 traffic stop on Hazelwood Avenue conducted by the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitives Task Force would have been unremarkable except for two things: The two were carrying a combined $12,000 cash on them, and Cohen gave police a false name.
The traffic stop was conducted because Peete was speeding. Peete also had a suspended driver’s license. Authorities later would reveal that Cohen and Peete were under investigation at the time as part of the “Little D-town” investigation that would result in indictments against Peete, Cohen and about 100 others accused of drug dealing and gun crimes in Warren in 2012.
They both were charged federally with drug offenses in that investigation.
When Cohen was asked for his identification during the Nov. 2 traffic stop, he said he was Lamar Brown and he didn’t know his Social Security number. He was charged with misdemeanor falsification once police learned his true identity. He was released from the Trumbull County jail after posting $2,500 bond.
Peete and Cohen already had lengthy criminal records out of Detroit by late 2012.
Peete and another fellow Detroit native, Dale Hatch, 27, later were convicted in the Nov. 11, 2012, Dukes murder. Hatch got a 10-year prison term. Police said the Dukes killing involved Peete’s firing between 30 and 40 times with an assault rifle.
Dukes died, and Dukes’ cousin, Larry Smith, was injured, in the exchange next door to a day care and half a block from a Warren church conducting services.
Trumbull County prosecutors would have brought Cohen back to Trumbull County to testify in the trials against Peete and Hatch, Trumbull County prosecutors said, because Cohen had tried to take the assault rifle that Peete used to kill Dukes back to Detroit after the killing.
But the Ohio State Highway Patrol made a traffic stop on the Ohio Turnpike and found Peete’s weapon in Cohen’s possession.
The weapon later was “forensically proven to be the murder weapon” in the Dukes killing, prosecutors said.