Steve Toms' homicide suspect indicted for murder

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comApril 15, 2014 

A grand jury has indicted the suspect in the 2011 homicide of jewelry store manager Steve Toms not only for murder and armed robbery, but for joining four others in a criminal enterprise in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

For Toms’ Nov. 15, 2011, fatal shooting in the Gold & Silver Trading Center at 3717 Gentian Boulevard, Michael Jerome Johnson was indicted on two counts of felony murder for killing Toms, 63, while committing the felonies of armed robbery and aggravated assault. He also was indicted for the robbery and assault offenses and for using a firearm to commit a crime.

In the same indictment the grand jurors included charges against Dimitrius Gordon, Sidney Person, Xavier Bell, Jockas Gilchrist and Theodore Alexander, who with Johnson are alleged to have planned and carried out a series of attempted or armed robberies around the city.

Their forming a robbery gang that carried out multiple heists led to the grand jury’s indicting Johnson, Gordon, Person, Bell and Gilchrist for violating the RICO Act, authorities said. Alexander was not named in that indictment.

Here is how the indictment lays out the other charges:

On April 2, 2012, gunmen fired shots while trying to rob the Winn Dixie at 1627 S. Lumpkin Road, police reported. In that incident, Person, Bell, Gilchrist and Alexander were indicted on charges of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and two counts each of aggravated assault and kidnapping. Gilchrist was indicted also for using a firearm to commit a crime.

On April 11, 2012, shots were fired again as gunmen robbed the Winn Dixie at 5750 Milgen Road. In that incident, Johnson, Gordon, Person, Bell and Gilchrist were indicted on three counts of armed robbery, two of aggravated assault and one of kidnapping.

On May 5, 2012, two gunmen robbed the Diamond Exchange at 4227 Victory Drive. For this incident, Johnson and Gordon were indicted for two counts of armed robbery and one each of kidnapping, aggravated assault and using a firearm to commit a crime.

Johnson and Gordon previously were charged also with the Aug. 22, 2012, armed robbery of the La Mexicana de Columbus restaurant and grocery at 3305 Victory Drive. Surveillance video of the getaway vehicle led to their arrests, which gave detectives the leads they needed to clear the other robberies and the Toms’ homicide, authorities said.

Johnson and Gordon later pleaded guilty to the La Mexicana robbery. Johnson was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Gordon to 10 years.

Police Sgt. Andrew Tyner, who’s credited with clearing the Toms’ case, testified in a preliminary hearing on July 25, 2013, that under questioning Johnson blamed the slaying on a cousin. Tyner said Johnson told him the cousin had given this account of Toms’ fatal shooting:

The gunman found no one at the front counter when he entered the jewelry store, but someone in the back called out “Who’s there?” Toms peeked out and saw the gun, and tried to flee, but the robber caught him and brought him back to the front, where Toms opened the register and surrendered the cash.

The robber then saw a ring on Toms’ finger and demanded it. When Toms refused and reached for a gun under the counter, the robber shot him several times, Johnson told Tyner.

Johnson was charged with the homicide when his alibi proved to be false, Tyner testified.

Police believe the shooting happened shortly before the store was to close at 6 p.m., as Toms had spoken by phone to a relative at 5:33 p.m.

Store owner Bob Upchurch found Toms about 8:45 a.m. the next day, a loaded gun on the floor beside him. An empty cash drawer was on the front counter, and gold chains were missing from display cases, police said.

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