MAIN STREET CLOSED, IN BOTH DIRECTIONS, BETWEEN UNIVERSITY AND ELMWOOD
Three In Custody For Deadly Shooting
Three people are in custody in connection with Peoria's first homicide of 2014.
Duane Simmons, Orlando Mathews, and Denzell Gayton (pictured left to right), all of whom are 21 years of age, were picked up within an hour of a fatal shooting at an apartment complex off of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. The victim, Justin S. Thompson, 30, of Peoria, was found with multiple gunshot wounds in a courtyard at the Landmark Apartments around 11:40 a.m. Wednesday. Police believe the shooting was drug related, as cash and marijuana were both found at the scene.
The trio was found at a nearby apartment complex, thanks in large part to community members passing along information to officers as they canvassed the area. After they were found, police executed a search warrant for a unit at that complex and allegedly uncovered pot, crack cocaine, and five guns.
There's also a gang connection to the incident. According to police, Simmons and Gayton are members of the group known as Zone 4. Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard says the slaying put Zone 4 firmly on the department's radar.
"We're going to throw everything we have at them. It's time for them to become our focus," Settingsgaard said.
In addition, Settingsgaard says Simmons was in attendance at the last "Don't Shoot" call-in, an event that brings in known gang members in an effort to stem the violence. The Chief says Wednesday's events don't mean that "Don't Shoot" failed.
"I believe it shows that we're looking at the right people," Settingsgaard said. "I don't believe we ever had any indication that this individual has stepped forward or ever said he wanted to break from the [gang] lifestyle. We're not surprised to see him back."
He says Mathews, the third suspect, had no significant record. There was not immediately any word on exactly what roles each of the three played in the shooting, including which of the trio pulled the trigger.