Lawrence shooting, creepy mask robberies had common denominator: Georgia man and marijuana deals

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Lawrence police block off an apartment complex in the 400 block of Graystone Drive following a reported shooting, Thursday afternoon, March 8, 2018.

A shooting and a series of armed robberies — where suspects barged into homes wearing creepy masks — earlier this year in Lawrence all had a common denominator: The same man setting up sham marijuana buys from people he knew were selling.

But instead of buying, the man’s cohorts burglarized, threatened at gunpoint, robbed and, in one case, shot the victims instead, according to police investigation.

Recently, the last of the four main actors in the crimes was arrested and charged in Douglas County District Court. Affidavits police prepared to support the arrests, which the Journal-World requested and received from the court, reveal more about the crimes.

Two back-to-back home invasion robberies were reported the night of Feb. 20. The first was at 2001 W. Sixth Street, Highpointe Apartments. The second was at 3100 Ousdahl Road, The Connection at Lawrence apartments.

Two men barged in, held the residents at gunpoint and stole items from them, the victims told police. Both suspects wore creepy masks like the ones in “The Purge” movie series.

In the middle of the day on March 8, a man was shot in his home at 449 Graystone Drive, the Country Club on 6th Apartments. Police said he’d come home and interrupted a burglary, and the shooter fled.

According to the affidavits, a 20-year-old Covington, Ga., man named True J. Shipley had set up marijuana buys that facilitated the crimes at those homes, plus two other homes where robberies were planned but not ultimately carried out.

Of all the defendants, Shipley was arrested first, in April. In the months since, police investigation and interviews with Shipley led to the arrests of the suspected shooter, 22-year-old Rodney L. McNeal, of Kansas City, Kan., and the suspected mask robbers, 30-year-old Corey T. Allen, of McDonough, Ga., and 20-year-old Justice L. Dent, of Lawrence.

Police learned that the February robbery victims didn’t know each other but had a couple things in common, according to the affidavits. Each apartment was home to at least one person selling drugs, and a search of those people’s phones revealed a common Snapchat friend whose profile name was “Truuuee.”

According to the affidavits, further police investigation revealed:

In February, Shipley and Allen rented a car in Georgia and drove to Lawrence, where they stayed a few days with someone at the HERE Kansas apartments, 1111 Indiana St.

Shipley told police that his friend Allen wanted some marijuana and decided “he was just going to take the marijuana” instead of buying it. Another resident at the complex, who hasn’t been charged, said Shipley asked him to set up drug buys with people he knew were sellers.

Shipley said that he stayed in the car while Allen and Dent donned the masks and robbed the apartments on Sixth and Ousdahl streets. They reportedly held victims at gunpoint and stole a number of things — including music equipment, cell phones and someone’s prescription inhaler — but got no weed.

“Shipley advised he became upset that there had not been any marijuana stolen, because he believed they (the victims) would call the police since there had not been marijuana stolen,” the police affidavit said.

Shipley and others approached two other homes with plans to rob them of marijuana, but never went in.

One near-victim, who lived in the 1300 block of Vermont Street, later told police he locked his door and didn’t answer a knock because he felt nervous about the situation.

Shipley also went to 449 Graystone Drive, but the resident had people over and the “buyer” couldn’t convince him to bring the weed outside, so the group abandoned the plan and left.

Shooting linked to drug deal, too

A couple weeks later, the same Graystone Drive resident got shot.

According to police affidavits:

The victim told police that he’d been contacted by “True,” who arranged for someone to buy marijuana from him that day. The victim said he’d just spoken with “True” before leaving to go to the grocery store.

On his way out, the victim noticed a white Chevrolet Impala in a parking stall near his apartment with two men inside.

photo by: Lawrence Police Department

Lawrence police were looking for this man in connection with a March 8, 2018, shooting at an apartment complex on Graystone Drive.

The victim came back to find his home had been broken into, and the back sliding glass door broken. Inside, a man with a gun came out of a closet and shot the victim in the pelvis area with the victim’s own handgun, which had been hidden in his bedroom.

The suspect ran, and the victim saw the same white Impala driving away.

Law enforcement trailed a car matching the description east on Interstate 70 and pulled it over in Wyandotte County. The sole person inside didn’t look like the shooter.

However, when asked about the Lawrence incident, the driver said, “I was in the area and I heard a pow pow.” He also said he’d dropped off his buddy “Deuce” “somewhere.”

Meanwhile, a man later identified as McNeal had gone into a vision clinic on Sixth Street, about half a mile from the shooting scene.

The day after the shooting, after seeing news coverage, clinic staff called police about that man.

They said he came in out of breath and bleeding from his hands. He asked to use the restroom, and left blood on the front counter and in the bathroom. He also asked to use one staffer’s cell phone to contact a friend on Snapchat, but she refused.

Shipley told police that, from Georgia, he’d arranged a marijuana sale between McNeal — aka “Deuce” — and the shooting victim.

Shipley said the victim called him afterward and said “the guys” had shot him. Shipley told police he did not know they were going to shoot.

Shipley’s arraignment is scheduled in February. Court records indicate he’s been released on $125,000 bond.

A preliminary hearing for McNeal, Allen and Dent is scheduled for Tuesday. They remain jailed on $125,000 bond, according to court records.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has denied the Journal-World’s requests for all four men’s mugshots.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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