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Suspect in 3 slayings has clean past

December 2, 2018

The man charged in the brutal killings of three people and the shootings of two others on Thanksgiving Day grew up with officers sworn to serve and protect Fort Wayne residents.

His grandmother, Deborah Joyner, served nearly 40 years with the Fort Wayne Police Department and retired in September as a captain. In 2005, she took him and his brother in and became their legal guardian two years later after an Allen County magistrate agreed with a petition that said their parents could not care for the boys.

The three shared a modest two-story home in a quiet neighborhood south of downtown.

His great-uncle is officer Michael Joyner, a police spokesman who is often the public face of the department.

Home for 22-year-old Kameron Joyner is now a cell at the Allen County Jail, where he will stay as lawyers prepare for his trial. The former South Side High School football and track standout admitted to the killings and said he shot the victims as part of a dispute over a drug debt, according to court documents.

The Nov. 22 slayings inside a Downingtown Drive home mark at least the sixth time since 2016 the city has seen three or more people killed in a single incident of violence. Those arrested were young : ages range from 19 to 26 : and all of the cases involved guns.

Two of the cases are unsolved.

Jim Seay, another police department spokesman, said unfortunately it’s not hard for young people to get their hands on firearms. If they want them bad enough, they’ll find a way to get them.

“They do straw purchases and stuff like that,” Seay said, referring to situations in which others will buy guns for those who want them. “Kids with guns, that’s nothing new.”

It’s not clear where Kameron Joyner got the gun police said he used to gun down Joevonn M. Johnson, 23, Colton D. Messmer, 20, and Tracey A. Andrews, 21, and injure Teryle King and Kyle Wagner. Police have not responded to requests for more information about the gun.

A number of states make gun permit data public, but Indiana is one of 28 that do not, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

No criminal record

Investigators arrived to a horrific scene about 10:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving at 6116 Downingtown Drive.

Wagner was near the porch and had been shot in the face, police said. Despite his injuries : he was later flown to an Indianapolis hospital because “his condition was extremely critical” : Wagner told an officer two men had arrived at the house to commit a robbery.

Inside, Johnson, Messmer and Andrews were dead : each felled by gunshots, a probable cause affidavit states.

King, who told police he ran toward the back of the house when the shooting started, was struck in the back by at least one bullet and told detectives that Gerald Pinkston and Kameron Joyner were responsible for the attack

King also said he did not see Pinkston : for whom police continue to search : with a gun, the affidavit said. A woman inside the house at the time of the attack initially waffled on questions about who fired the shots but reportedly said in an interview with police she is certain it was Kameron Joyner.

Arrested early Nov. 23, Kameron Joyner allegedly told police Detective Brian Martin in a recorded interview at the jail that he went to the house to kill Messmer over a drug debt. He was surprised at the number of people there when he arrived and started firing shots after five or 10 minutes inside, court documents say.

“Joyner advised that his accomplice also fired numerous times inside the house,” the affidavit states. “Joyner advised that he stole items from inside the house before fleeing the scene.”

The alleged crimes and the description of the cold-as-ice method by which they were committed are contrasted by newspaper articles and announcements from schools showing Kameron Joyner was interested in learning and a gifted athlete.

At a 2015 school board meeting, he was recognized for a ninth-place finish in the 100-meter dash at a state championship track meet, Fort Wayne Community Schools records show. He was a two-way starter for the Archers in football in his junior and senior years at South Side.

Joyner also earned a scholarship and signed paperwork in 2016 to continue his education and run track at Xavier University in Louisiana.

He does not have a criminal record, and neither Deborah Joyner nor Michael Joyner has been willing to talk about Kameron or his alleged crimes.

No one answered the door last week at Deborah Joyner’s home. Reached by phone, she told a reporter not to call her house.

Michael Joyner has referred to his great-nephew as a distant relative and declined through Seay on Thursday to comment further.

Other instances

The killings on Thanksgiving are the most recent among slayings of at least three people in Fort Wayne.

In January, Deyante Stephens, then 26, allegedly shot to death two women : one of them carrying an unborn son named Legend James Gould : inside a home at Lillie and Lewis streets. He is charged with three counts of murder, and his trial is scheduled to start Feb. 26.

That case is not the only time Stephens, now 27, has faced charges related to gun violence. In 2010, he killed Christopher Caldwell, 19, with a shotgun.

Stephens admitted to that shooting but called it accidental. He pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless homicide and was sentenced to four years in prison.

He robbed a bank with another man in 2013.

In a separate case, Dernail Brown, 26, Deshaun Richards, 25, and Breondon Pinkston, 28, were gunned down in June just north of downtown, near Wells Street. No arrests have been made in those slayings.

There were no triple homicides in the city last year, but 2016 proved particularly deadly.

Artavius Richards and Darrell McDaniel, both 19 at the time, were charged in the February 2016 execution-style killings of three men in a home in the 800 block of Lewis Street. Richards was convicted and sentenced to 190 years in prison, and McDaniel pleaded guilty to a robbery charge and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

Few answers 

Marcus Dansby allegedly committed one of the city’s most notorious murders about seven months after the Lewis Street killings. Police say he killed four people Sept. 11, 2016 : one of them his unborn child : in a home on Holton Avenue. He is facing the death penalty, but his attorneys have filed paperwork arguing he shouldn’t be executed because he was only 20 years old at the time of the killings.

Dansby’s trial is set to start in April.

Two days after the Holton Avenue killings, three men were shot and killed at Sports and Spirits Bar and Grill on East Wayne Street. No arrests have been made in that case.

Seay, the police department spokesman, said cases with multiple killings can tax detectives who investigate the crimes. They require multiple interviews with witnesses, more evidence gathered at the crime scene and more time developing suspects, he said.

“So yes, initially our resources are stretched, but after the initial processing is completed, the investigation is very similar regardless the number of victims,” Seay said in an email.

As for the motives of the killings, police say they have few answers.

Mental illness, family structure, violence in video games and on TV and easy access to weapons all can play a role in violent behavior, according to Gary Hensler Jr.

A sergeant with the police department’s Gang and Violent Crime Unit, Hensler said those factors can create a toxic brew.

“You put all these elements together like a lot of our youth are subject to today and (you) have a perfect situation for violent killers,” Hensler said in an email. “Just my theory.”

He said neither Kameron Joyner nor Gerald Pinkston : the men accused in the Thanksgiving homicides : were “on the Gang Unit radar and none had any known gang affiliation.”

A warrant was issued Friday for Pinkston on three counts of murder and two counts of criminal recklessness.

Anyone with information about him can call police at 427-1201 or 427-1222.

Kameron Joyner’s next court appearance is scheduled Dec. 10. A judge likely will set a trial date then.

mleblanc@jg.net

Jamie Duffy of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story. 

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