POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Authorities say a FEMA contractor traveled to Polk City from Alabama with two others to kill a man he had met while assessing the damage from Hurricane Irma. The men also stole a number of weapons from his gun collection.
Gerjuan Demarcus Jackson, 18, Kenley Campbell, 22, and Darril Lamar Rankin Jr., 22, all of Mobile, Alabama were arrested for first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the January 3 death of 68-year-old William Reiss, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Last Wednesday, Reiss was gunned down inside his Polk City home. He had been shot four times in the head and once in the hand. Reiss’ friend Kenneth Maier was also shot and left for dead. Maier is currently fighting for his life at Lakeland Health Hospital, said Sheriff Judd.
According to an arrest report, the youngest suspect, Gerjuan Jackson is an official FEMA contractor who met the victim last year while conducting a damage assessment weeks after Hurricane Irma hit Polk County.
During this time, Jackson learned Reiss had a large collection of guns and would sell firearms frequently. Two weeks after they met, Jackson purchased two handguns from Reiss’ collection worth an estimated $800.
Shortly after the sale, Jackson was arrested in Alabama for improper possession of those firearms. Investigators say months later, he spoke with Rankin and Campbell and suggested they go “hit a lick” on Reiss.
The three men traveled to Polk City in Campbell’s Chevrolet Sonic.
While the other two waited inside the car, Jackson went inside Reiss’ home and fired several gunshots at Reiss and Maier, Sheriff Judd said. Once he left the residence, the other two men loaded the victim’s firearm collection and a flat screen television into a vehicle. The men also made off with the victim’s truck.
When they got back to Alabama, detectives said Jackson drove the stolen truck into a wooded area and set it on fire.
Surveillance video from nearby businesses and residences shows Campbell’s Chevrolet Sonic and the stolen truck near the scene of the crime shortly after Reiss’ death.
Using surveillance images and other investigative techniques, detectives were able to track the suspects from Polk City to Mobile, Alabama.
Detectives contacted the Mobile Police Department and the agencies worked together to identify Campbell as the owner of the Sonic. They also identified Rankin as one of the culprits. Once they were located, both men confessed to the crimes and identified Jackson as the killer.
Six firearms, ammunition, electronic devices and clothes that may have been connected to the murder were recovered from Campbell and Rankin’s home. Detectives confirmed three of the firearms were stolen from the victim’s collection. Investigators are unsure where the other firearms are from. The burned truck was also recovered.
When detectives found Jackson, he told them all of the firearms, the television and other property taken from the victim’s home had been sold on the streets. He estimated a total of 20 to 25 firearms were stolen from Reiss.
All three men have all been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, armed burglary with assault/battery, 13 counts of grand theft of a firearm, robbery with a firearm/deadly weapon, conveyance burglary and grand theft of a motor vehicle.
They were booked into the Mobile County Metro Jail without incident and will be extradited to Polk County at a later date. The investigation is ongoing and further charges may be filed.
A FEMA spokesperson issued the following statement to News Channel 8:
FEMA is aware of an alleged incident that occurred in Polk County, Florida, and are looking into additional details on this matter. Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims.
FEMA’s Inspection Services are handled by contracted firms, and not FEMA employees. Currently, FEMA contracts with two private sector companies for disaster survivor home inspections. Questions about individuals employed within those contracted companies, or those companies’ hiring practices, must be pursued through their individual contractors. FEMA works closely with law enforcement on a regular basis, and will provide appropriate coordination with law enforcement on this incident.
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