Department of Justice
For Immediate Release
Detroit Man Charged With the Illegal Purchase of a Firearm
Firearm was Later Used in the Fatal Shooting of a DPD Officer
DETROIT – A criminal complaint was filed today charging a Detroit man with the illegal straw purchase of a firearm that was later used in the fatal shooting of a Detroit police officer, announced United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison.
Ison was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charges Paul Vanderplow, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Chief James E. White, Detroit Police Department.
The United States Attorney’s Office in Detroit charged Sheldon Avery Thomas, 26, with making a false statement in the acquisition of the firearm. Thomas made a virtual appearance in federal court this afternoon and was ordered temporarily detained pending a detention hearing on Tuesday, July 12.
According to the criminal complaint filed today, on the evening of July 6, 2022, officers from the Detroit Police Department responded to a call of shots fired in the area of Joy Road and Marlow Street on the city’s west side. Upon arriving at the scene, an individual, later identified as Ehmani Davis, fired at the responding officers and fatally struck Officer Loren Courts. ATF agents conducted an urgent trace of the Romarm/Cigir, Draco, 7.62 caliber pistol Davis possessed during the shooting and learned that on June 7, 2022, Sheldon Avery Thomas purchased the firearm from a gun store in Eastpointe, Michigan. A review of records and surveillance video from that day shows that Thomas purchased the Draco firearm and later met with Davis in a nearby parking lot. Thomas is alleged to have made false statements in the acquisition of the firearm by stating he was the actual purchaser of the firearm and was not buying it for another person.
“The tragic death of Officer Courts is one more terrible example of what happens when guns are supplied to those who are prohibited from possessing them. Purchasing a gun for someone who is legally prohibited from possessing it can land you in prison for 10 years,” stated U.S. Attorney Ison. “Our office will continue to focus on the drivers of violence, which includes both those who commit violent crimes using firearms and those who help them obtain firearms illegally. This case should serve as a warning to those thinking about straw purchasing firearms – you will face federal charges.”
“Straw purchases “lying and buying” is not a victimless crime. The men and women at the AFT will find and remove those individuals from the community who enable violent criminals terrorizing our State,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Paul Vanderplow. “ATF stands proudly with our Federal, state and local law enforcement partners within the State of Michigan to prosecute these individuals. As promised, commit crimes with firearms, find out the ATF will be at your door.”
“As we all grieve the shocking and devastating loss of our hero, Officer Courts, Detroit Police Department (DPD) remains steadfast in its mission to serve and protect,” Chief James E. White said. “We will continue to collaborate with our local and federal partners to stop these dangerous individuals from victimizing our community. We sincerely appreciate the efforts and commitment of the ATF and the US Attorney’s Office in this matter.”
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed, determinations will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.
This case is being investigated by agents of the ATF and officers of the Detroit Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Barbara Lanning.