PINE BLUFF -- Prosecutors are considering federal charges against two Camden men in the shooting death of Pine Bluff pawnshop owner Brandon McHan.
In a status hearing Thursday before Circuit Judge Alex Guynn at the Jefferson County Courthouse, attorneys for Rodney Henry and Daryl Strickland, both 21, asked for a 60-day continuance to allow time for federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of Arkansas to make a decision as to whether to intervene in the case and to give defense attorneys additional time to prepare their cases.
George Morledge IV and Jeff Rosenzweig, the attorneys representing Henry, said the case will most likely wind up being prosecuted by federal authorities.
"I'm pretty sure they'll take it over," Rosenzweig said. "It's just a matter of going through the process."
"Mr. Moreledge and I have been in contact with the U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock and as of yesterday they expect to make a decision on whether or not to go federal with this in early October, about a month from now," Rosenzweig said.
"Also, we were given a document today that the state will be seeking the death penalty in this case, so right now, we are in limbo until the U.S. attorney makes a decision."
U.S. Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland declined to comment on the case and referred all questions to local authorities.
Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter said the case raised the interest of federal authorities from the beginning, and that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted in the investigation because of McHan's background as a federal firearms license holder and firearms dealer.
"Whether they'll ever have the authority to go forward or whether they will, that's an issue that is still to be determined," Hunter said. "From a going-forward point of view, this is [the state's] case, we're going forward with it, and if the feds at any time have the authority to seek an indictment, then we'll discuss with the feds at that time what is the most appropriate way to move forward."
Hunter said regardless of which office winds up prosecuting the crime, the goal is the same.
"They're not trying to step on the authority that we have here to prosecute this case," he said. "Everybody wants to make sure we're able to prosecute this case in the forum in which we'll be most successful."
According to a probable-cause affidavit, police were called to the Wise Buck Pawn Shop in Pine Bluff about 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 after shots were reported fired in the building. When police arrived, the affidavit said, gunfire could still be heard inside, and shortly after, two men were seen running through a field south of the pawnshop.
McHan, 34, the owner of the shop on South Camden Road, was shot while exchanging gunfire with at least one of two assailants who entered the store about 5:30 p.m., police said in a statement.
According to police, investigators believed that McHan and Jason Booth, a friend of McHan's, were inside when the two men entered and tried to hold up the store. Instead, McHan and the robbers began firing.
After a few moments, the two robbers walked back out of the pawnshop but quickly returned, police said. Booth, who police said had gone over to McHan and was trying to render first aid, grabbed McHan's gun and fired back, but was shot in the chin, abdomen and hand, according to police.
The affidavit said both men were transported to Jefferson Regional Medical Center where McHan died during surgery.
Henry and Strickland were questioned by police on Nov. 28 about the killing and an attempted robbery of a nearby gas station, and were subsequently released, the affidavit said. After further investigation, the two were arrested Dec. 4 in Camden. Both men are charged with capital murder, aggravated robbery, and theft of property.
Guynn ordered another status hearing to be held Dec. 5 for Strickland and Henry.
State Desk on 09/06/2019
Print Headline: U.S. case weighed in fatal shooting of Arkansas pawnshop owner