Crime

Former police officer gets prison in Saucier gun store heist

Willie Carter
Willie Carter

GULFPORT -- Two Harrison County men have been sentenced to prison, fined and ordered to pay $9,000.68 in restitution for the theft of 52 weapons from a licensed firearms dealer in Saucier.

Kevin Gerard Edwards, 51, and Willie Carter, 34, are two of five men prosecuted in U.S. District Court for guns stolen in a break-in at Saucier Friendly Auto and Pawn the weekend of June 6, 2015.

Edwards, a felon, received a 10-year prison term and a $5,000 fine, a judgment filed in court records Monday said. Edwards received the maximum prison term and the largest fine in the case so far.

Carter, identified in a document as a former officer with the Columbia Police Department, received a 37-month prison term and was fined $2,500 fine.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden sentenced them Thursday.

Restitution includes $7,169.90 owed to the pawn shop and $1,830.78 owed to Wilber and Associates, a damage recovery firm in Normal, Illinois.

Ozerden ordered Edwards to make a lump-sum payment of $14,100.68 or monthly payments of $150 once he's out of prison.

He set Carter's lump-sum payment at $11,600.68, or a $100 monthly payment after prison.

Ozerden gave each of them three years of probation.

The pawn shop is on U.S. 49 at Road 231, about two miles north of Harrison Central High School.

A co-defendant had identified Edwards as one of the burglars, and said Carter drove Edwards and another man to the pawn shop in his white dually pickup truck, a federal firearms agent's sworn statement said. Another co-defendant said Carter helped arrange sales of some of the stolen weapons.

Several people, including Carter, wrote Ozerden letters asking for leniency. The letters, filed in court records, show Carter said he is ashamed of his poor judgment. Other letters were written by current and retired law enforcement officers, friends from churches and nonprofit groups, the Marion County tax collector and the head football coach of West Marion High in Foxworth.

A grand jury had indicted Carter and Edwards along with Tyson Lee Gaines Sr., 34; Octavia Jermaine Winters, 32; Andre Lattour Young, 54. George Sullivan, 43, also was indicted but he died in custody July 4. Stone County officials said he died of natural causes.

A second indictment alleged the criminal activity occurred last year from June 1-24 and included plans to steal the shop's inventory and sell the stolen guns.

Gaines and Winters have pleaded guilty to the same charge as Edwards and Carter.

Gaines received a 10-year prison term Jan. 26 and a restitution order but no fine.

Winters will be sentenced April 22.

Young has accepted a plea to a lesser charge of misprision of felony -- knowing a crime was committed but failing to report it. He will be sentenced Thursday.

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