Federal prosecutors take over gun case

URBANA – A 19-year-old Champaign man, who has spent most of the last seven years incarcerated, now faces federal weapons charges as the result of a shooting at Burch Village.

Charmell D. Brown, who listed an address in the 3200 block of West John Street, waived a preliminary hearing Monday on a federal charge of unlawful possession of weapons by a felon.

Magistrate Judge David Bernthal ordered that Brown be detained as the case goes forward to a federal grand jury.

Brown's federal public defender, Tiffany Hurst, tried to get him released on bond with supervision by his sister. Bernthal ruled, however, that while bond conditions might address Brown's flight risk, they would not address the risk of danger to the community.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass argued that Brown has been locked up for crimes all but six months of the last seven years, including a prison sentence two years ago for a state charge of unlawful use of weapons by a felon.

"That is a defendant who has no regard for the law," Bass said.

Brown originally was charged in Champaign County Circuit Court with unlawful use of weapons. He was arraigned July 25, but charges were dismissed Thursday as Assistant U.S. Attorney Mick McAvoy told the court the case was being taken by federal prosecutors.

Bass said the case is another example of the federal Safe Neighborhoods program, which targets felons with weapons violations.

In an affidavit filed with the federal criminal complaint last week, Champaign police Detective Robert Rea said police were called to Burch Village, the family public housing complex at 504 E. Bradley Ave., C, about 7:42 p.m. July 24 on a report of shots being fired and men fleeing in a black Ford Escort.

Officer Bruce Ramseyer responded and saw a black Ford Escort leaving the driveway at Burch Village. It was occupied by three men, the affidavit said.

The car drove away, ending up in the front yard of a home at 1409 W. Beardsley Ave., U, The driver, whom police identified as Brown, got out of the driver's seat and ran east through several back yards, the affidavit said.

Ramseyer chased Brown and saw Brown carrying a black, semi-automatic handgun in his right hand while running, the affidavit said.

Brown was found and arrested in the 600 block of East Eureka. The gun, which Ramseyer reported seeing Brown carry, was found in a back yard near a fence Brown had jumped over in the 1400 block of North Romine, the affidavit said.

Brown told police later that he saw another man put the gun near a fence at Burch Village, and he picked it up and put it in his pocket, according to the affidavit.

Brown also told police he saw the other man running from a crowd at a dice game holding his right pants pocket after some shots were fired. He said he thought the other man was the shooter.

Brown admitted to police that he ran from police because he didn't have a valid license and he was in possession of the handgun. He said he tossed the gun into the grass as he was running, the affidavit states.

You can reach Steve Bauer at (217) 351-5318 or via e-mail at sbauer@news-gazette.com.

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