Police: 3 soldiers admitted to Okla. home invasion

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2011 8:25 PM
Police: 3 soldiers admitted to Okla. home invasion

Three soldiers from an Oklahoma Army post admitted under police questioning that they carried out a home invasion in which four people were shot and wounded, a detective said.

The three Fort Sill soldiers _ a fourth is charged with being their getaway driver _ told investigators that they were at the home of a friend, Heather Smith, and that they told her they were going to rob her next-door neighbor's, Lawton police Det. Brenna Alvarez said in a sworn affidavit filed Tuesday in Comanche County District Court.

Pfcs. Kevon McLaren, 22, Richard Daly, 24, and Claude Byrd II, 27, each face conspiracy, robbery and kidnapping charges, and McLaren, who witnesses said fired the shots, faces additional charges of shooting with the intent to kill and burglary. A fourth soldier, Pfc. Jared Berman, 22, is accused of helping them flee and is charged with being an accessory.

All four soldiers were being held in the Comanche County Jail _ McLaren on $2 million bond, Daly and Byrd on $1 million each, and Berman on $45,000 bond.

Online court records indicated that each of the soldiers pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday before Special Judge Joe B. Reeves. Records indicate that none of the soldiers had attorneys.

Smith, 20, was arrested Wednesday and is charged with lying to police and being an accessory after the fact. She pleaded not guilty Thursday during a hearing before Reeves, who set bond at $75,000, according to court records. The records showed she also didn't have an attorney.

In his affidavit, which was filed Tuesday with the charges against Smith, Alvarez states that "Byrd, Daly and McLaren all confessed to their involvement in the robbery."

According to Alvarez, the three told police they were hanging out at Smith's place and told her they were going to rob the apartment next door. McLaren said Daly told Smith "they were going to do a `lick,'" and that she said she was afraid her neighbors would respond by shooting her. But Byrd said she eventually came around to the idea because she was moving out, anyway.

Byrd said Daly and McLaren knocked on the neighbor's door while he stayed at Smith's, and that she went outside pretending to take out the trash so she could tell him what was happening, Alvarez said.

When she returned to the apartment, Byrd said she told him "hey, McLaren got him. Get over there, get over there." Byrd said he found McLaren and Daly ordering everyone to the ground at gunpoint. At one point, victims said they heard Daly on the phone saying "I'm at Heather's," Alvarez said.

Detectives later determined he was calling Berman to come pick them up along with the items they stole, which included computers, DVDs, clothing and other items, police said.

Byrd told police that about two minutes elapsed from the time he heard the first gunshot to the time he heard the last, and that they fled right after that to Byrd's house, Alvarez said. Once there, Daly told Berman to go back to get Smith, but there were too many police cars when he got there and he turned back.

According to the affidavit, Smith called police just after the early-morning shooting to report she heard five or six gunshots coming from the apartment next door. When officers arrived a few minutes later, she told them that McLaren, who she had known for almost a year, knocked on her door after she hung up, pointed a gun at her and demanded money. She said she gave him $200 and he left.

Smith also told police she had been hanging out with Daly and Byrd that night and that they had left about an hour before McLaren knocked, Alvarez said.

Assistant District Attorney Eddie Valdez said Wednesday that he had just been assigned to the case and couldn't provide additional details, and prosecutors didn't immediately respond to a message Thursday seeking comment.

The gray, two-story apartment building where the incident occurred is located in a working-class neighborhood dotted with vacant lots and abandoned structures in the southwestern Oklahoma City that is frequently visited by soldiers at nearby Fort Sill, site of the Army's Field Artillery School and Air Defense Artillery School.

Maj. Gen. David Halverson, the commander at Fort Sill located about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, issued a statement Tuesday saying that the post was cooperating with the investigation and calling it an "isolated incident."

The four soldiers are assigned to the 75th Fires Brigade, which Fort Sill spokesman Keith Pannell described as a field and air defense artillery unit.