Ouachita Parish Courthouse in Monroe.jpg

A Monroe man facing several felony charges, including second-degree murder, continues to enjoy no bond restrictions and the freedom to violate his court-ordered curfew thanks to two judges at Fourth Judicial District Court.

Devontae Demarcus Coleman, 20, of Monroe, is accused of murdering Junius Benton in August 2017 and was arrested in six other felony cases since 2016. He also was arrested earlier this month for battering his mother’s boyfriend.

Judges Larry Jefferson and Marcus Hunter, who each serve at the district court, have either allowed Coleman to spend time outside prison while wearing an ankle monitor or allowed him to be released from prison on his own recognizance.

Assistant District Attorney George Ross filed a motion to revoke Coleman’s bond on Feb. 26, attaching numerous reports of GPS monitoring data from the ankle monitor that showed Coleman had freely roamed the parish in spite of the court’s orders in December 2018 that the suspect remain home during certain hours.

“Defendant’s actions show an acute disregard for the Orders of this Court,” stated Ross’ motion to revoke bond. “Defendant has violated the terms of the GPS monitoring order on multiple occasions.”

Ross is handling the prosecution of Coleman on behalf of Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew’s office.

Group of males drew guns

A Ouachita Parish grand jury indicted Coleman on one count of second-degree murder on Aug. 3, 2017, stemming from an investigation by Monroe police into a shooting near the intersection of Milliken Street and Long Drive.

A witness informed police that an argument broke out between a group of black males, according to the police report. At one point, the murder victim, Benton, began screaming that he had been shot.

“During the incident, it was discovered that an altercation occurred just prior to the shooting between two feuding groups in the neighborhood,” stated the June 29, 2017 Monroe police arrest report. “As the situation escalated, several individuals pulled out handguns and shots were fired. During the shooting, a 16-year-old male was shot and killed in the street.”

Witness testimony and videos identified Coleman as one of the shooters. Benton was Coleman’s cousin.

During questioning, Coleman denied having a gun or firing one, according to the arrest report.

“Once he was told of the evidence against him, he admitted to standing near the deceased victim and shooting the gun he had at least two times toward people at the scene,” stated the arrest report. “Coleman also admitted that he transported the gun from the scene and later threw it away. Coleman stated the gun was not his but he got it from the vehicle he was in just prior to the shooting.”

Two other suspects were arrested, stemming from the incident: Japhares Rucks, 20, of Monroe, and Jaylon K. Brown, 19. During questioning, Rucks told police he held the gun but never fired it.

“Rucks at first stated he was just a bystander watching the altercation when he saw others pulling guns,” stated the June 28, 2017 arrest report for Rucks’ arrest. “Later in the investigation, video was obtained and Rucks was observed in the middle of the altercation and also was seen pulling a small semi-automatic pistol.”

Brown also admitted to being involved in the fight. He told police he fired a handgun one time during the incident. He was booked on suspicion of illegal use of weapons.

Ankle monitor data shows suspect leaving home

After Coleman’s arrest for murder in August 2017, he was arrested for illegal possession of stolen things on Dec. 2, 2018 and arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile on Dec. 7, 2018.

A Dec. 6, 2018 warrant for Coleman’s arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile indicated authorities obtained a search warrant for Coleman’s phone and found a video on the phone in which a child, who was two to three years of age, sitting in Coleman’s lap and smoking.

“The child is holding a hand rolled cigar and is smoking it,” stated the Dec. 6, 2018 warrant. “The child inhales the substance and coughs. Coleman is heard laughing and saying, ‘Gang shit man...my nigga thuggin already.’”

The video’s time stamp data showed the video was captured at Coleman’s home on Miller Street in Monroe.

The district attorney’s office asked Jefferson to hold Coleman without bond during a hearing in December.

Instead, Jefferson released Coleman and ordered that he only be electronically monitored through an ankle bracelet.

Under the court order, Coleman must be home between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. or at work between the hours set by his employer.

Ross’ motion to revoke Coleman’s bond cited Coleman’s arrests for simple burglary, theft of a firearm, aggravated arson, conspiracy to commit aggravated arson among others.

“The State shows that the Defendant has violated the court’s GPS order conditions on multiple occasions,” stated Ross’ motion to revoke Coleman’s bond. “Per the attached reports from Innovative Monitoring Network, Defendant was absent from his home from 9:05 p.m. on 2/15/19 through at least 12:29 a.m. on 2/16/19. Defendant moved throughout Monroe and West Monroe during that time period.”

The district attorney motion noted several other times when Coleman violated the court’s orders by leaving his home and traveling across the area during the hours when he was ordered to stay at home.

Beyond the contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile charge from December 2018, Coleman has faced other criminal charges while at his home.

For example, he was arrested March 6 for domestic abuse battery after authorities were notified of a disturbance at Coleman’s home. Coleman told Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies that he fought with his mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend had several lacerations on his face, and his face was covered in blood and his nose was swollen, according to deputies. The boyfriend confirmed there was a fight.

Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning signed a March 7 order, requiring that Coleman be held in prison without bail, pending a bail hearing. Under Manning’s order, Coleman could not be released on his own recognizance and no personal surety bonds could be made.

According to Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Johnson, a 72-hour hearing was held the next day before Hunter.

“Judge Hunter released the Defendant ROR (released on recognizance),” Johnson said.

First-degree murder charge

During The Ouachita Citizen’s review of Coleman’s court records, the newspaper found a warrant filed by the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office that indicated Coleman might face or previously faced being charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.

When asked, the Sheriff’s Office declined to explain the basis for the mention of such charges.

The Sheriff’s Office warrant stated Coleman was brought to the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division in reference to a theft investigation in which Coleman was a “possible suspect.”

“He was advised of his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with deputies about the theft and other ongoing investigations; two counts of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer,” stated the warrant.

The Ouachita Citizen later learned the Dec. 6, 2018 warrant referred to an officer-involved shooting on Dec. 1, 2018 on Deloach Street and Miller Street in Monroe. At that time, a sheriff’s deputy was shot while sitting in an unmarked unit, though the deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest and survived the injury.

In a Dec. 19, 2018 news report by KTVE/KARD TV, Coleman’s mother claimed the Sheriff’s Office had targeted her son. She claimed he did not murder Benton, too.

According to the news report, “(Shawnta Coleman) claimed that when looking for clues in a December 1st officer-involved shooting, another crime she insisted her son didn’t commit, officers destroyed her home.”

The Ouachita Citizen was unable to reach Shawnta Coleman for further comment.

When asked about what the Dec. 6, 2018 warrant meant, the sheriff’s spokesman, Glenn Springfield, said the mention of “attempted first-degree murder of an officer” charges likely referred to an investigation by a different law enforcement agency.

The Ouachita Citizen reached out to Louisiana State Police, Monroe police, and the district attorney’s office about the matter. Louisiana State Police spokesman Michael Reichardt and Monroe police spokesman Reggie Brown said the first-degree murder charges did not originate in their departments nor were any such investigations underway.

Johnson, with the district attorney’s office, said she was not familiar with a first-degree murder charge against Coleman.

The newspaper approached the Sheriff’s Office about the matter a second time.

When asked about the factual basis for the mention of the first-degree murder charges in the Sheriff’s Office warrant, Springfield declined to say.

“We may have talked to him about it, but there’s nothing to show we arrested him on it,” Springfield said.

Later, Springfield said the Sheriff’s Office interviewed many people about the officer-involved shooting on Dec. 1, 2018.

“I can’t say he was a suspect,” Springfield said.

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