It was January of 2020 when a pawnshop in Gray was burglarized, and 40 guns were stolen. Four months later it happened again, and an estimated 30 more guns were taken, bringing the total of guns stolen to 70.
The lead investigator in the case said guns from the burglaries have been recovered in the Middle Georgia area and all the way to California. Four arrests were made in the case, and three of those individuals recently entered guilty pleas, receiving sentences that when combined total 80 years.
Ernest Lee Mace Jr., Jacorey Denzel English and Jentavious Johnson were in court Aug. 19 in front of Superior Court Judge Alison Burleson. Mace, who was involved in both burglaries, pled guilty to two counts of smash and grab burglary and two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He received a sentence of 40 years with the first 20 to serve in confinement.
English pled guilty to one count of smash and grab burglary Aug. 19 and received a sentence of 20 years with 10 years to serve. Both Mace and English accepted the negotiated sentences offered by the state at the time of entering their pleas and were sentenced by Burleson.
Johnson entered his guilty plea to one count of smash and grab burglary and one count of possession of a handgun by a person under 18 years of age in front of Burleson, but he requested a sentencing hearing in front of Superior Court Judge William Prior the following Monday, Aug. 23.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Johnson was sentenced to 20 years with 12 years to serve. All three defendants were banished from the Ocmulgee Circuit for the duration of their sentences.
The case against the fourth person charged in the burglaries, Erik Hopkins, remains open. Arrests
Gray Police Chief Adam Lowe and Investigator Maj. Chris Williams were interviewed in a News story about the arrests of the suspects. Williams said Gray police officers responded to the May 3, 2020, burglary alarm at the pawnshop at 2:20 a.m. and found the side glass window of the store busted out. Williams said it was just as it was in the Jan. 19 burglary of the same store.
No arrests had been made in the January break-in, but three of the four suspects in the May burglary were in custody later the same day that crime took place.
The major said display cases inside the pawnshop were shattered, and it was determined that a total of 28 guns were missing. He said when they reviewed a surveillance video of the main intersection of Gray, they saw a black Honda Accord pull into the car wash parking lot across the street from the pawnshop and watched four individuals cross the street.
Williams said a few minutes later the individuals came back across the street with one of them carrying a book bag. They got back in the car and exited at the rear of the carwash, out of the view of the video camera.
The major said a lookout was immediately posted with a description of the vehicle, and Jones County Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Mosteller saw a vehicle on Gray Highway near the Bibb County line, fitting the description.
The deputy got a tag number.
Williams said the tag came back registered to a person in Warner Robins, and, with the assistance of members of the Warner Robins Police Department, the black Honda Accord was located.
He said English was the driver of the Honda, and he was arrested at his girlfriend’s house.
The major was on scene when the suspect was arrested by Warner Robins police officers. He said English was taken to the Warner Robins police department and interviewed.
During that interview, Mace was named as a suspect, and a search warrant was obtained for his residence in Warner Robins. Williams said Mace was arrested during the execution of that warrant.
While officers were at that scene, they were given Johnson’s name, and he was also taken into custody.
Williams said during the subsequent investigation, a fourth suspect surfaced, Erik Dewayne Hopkins, who like Mace was believed to be involved in both burglaries. The major said the GBI Crime Lab matched blood found at the January burglary to Hopkins through DNA.
Williams said all the suspects in the case had criminal histories and three of them were convicted felons.
Lowe said the GPD has been working with ATF and the GBI on the recovery of the stolen weapons. He expressed his appreciation to Warner Robinson Police Chief John Wagner and his department and the Jones County Sheriff’s Department for their help in the investigation of the case and arrests.