URBANA — An Urbana man is in jail for allegedly shooting at a house in the northwestern part of the city where a man was murdered over the weekend.
Urbana police Lt. Dave Smysor said investigators believe that Steven Thompson, 52, apparently mistakenly believed that the woman at the heart of the dispute that led to Montez Jones being fatally shot over the weekend by another man was involved in setting that up.
Police continue to look for Bruce Stennis, 22, the man charged with the murder of Mr. Jones, 23, of Champaign.
Smysor said the woman was being stalked by Stennis, and Mr. Jones was unfortunately present when Stennis found her.
The fatal shooting happened about 2 a.m. Saturday in the alley behind the 1400 block of West Hill Street, Urbana. The woman was sitting in the driver’s seat of a car and Mr. Jones was in the passenger seat when Stennis approached and punched out the driver’s window.
He then reached in and began beating the woman, Smysor said.
“Mr. Jones gets out to help her and to confront Stennis. They get into a physical altercation,” Smysor said. “Stennis goes back to his car, gets a gun and shoots Mr. Jones.
“The murder, by all appearances, is an ex-boyfriend who was stalking his ex-girlfriend. Mr. Jones finds himself in this situation because he and the woman were together when Stennis arrived. Mr. Jones was trying to help her.”
Since the killing, police have been heavily patrolling the area where the woman lives.
Smysor said about 1 a.m. Monday, an officer was parked watching the house, “making sure there’s no trouble, knowing we are still looking for Stennis.” The woman who was beaten early Saturday was home, he said.
“He (the officer) sees a vehicle … pull onto Hill from Wright Street, turn off all the lights on the vehicle and stop in front of the house,” Smysor said.
Seconds later, the officer heard what he recognized as four to six gunshots and saw the sport utility vehicle take off to the east. At least three shots penetrated the house, where two adults and two children were present.
The officer called for help while pursuing the SUV, which made its way to Lincoln Avenue and headed north at about 100 mph.
The SUV failed to negotiate a curve in the 3400 block of North Lincoln Avenue, north of Interstate 74, slid off the road and spun out in the field.
Smysor said the officer found Thompson lying down with a gun near him. A second gun was found in the vehicle, which was registered to the brother of Mr. Jones. One gun was a 9 mm Glock — which matched the bullet casings found at the Hill Street home — and the other was a .357 revolver.
“He appears to be highly intoxicated,” Smysor said.
Thompson, who listed an address in the 1400 block of North Romine Street, was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, where he was checked out for injuries, then transferred to the county jail. He admitted he had been drinking but not that he fired at the house, Smysor said.
Thompson was charged Tuesday with aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated driving under the influence and unlawful use of weapons by a felon. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. Court records show he has prior drug- and DUI-related convictions.
A beleaguered Smysor urged the public to let police do their work and to not fall victim to rumors and conspiracy theories.
“We are trying to catch a murderer and need to be able to focus our time and energy on that as opposed to quashing rumors and trying to interrupt retaliatory gunfire back and forth,” he said. “We are doing our best, but we need people to help us and slow down.”
Judge Adam Dill set bond for Thompson at $750,000 and ordered him back in court July 13 for a probable-cause hearing.