Feds indict man linked to gun used to kill Detroit police officer

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A federal grand jury has indicted a Detroit man accused of buying the gun used to kill Detroit police Officer Loren Courts, according to federal court records filed Thursday.

The one-count indictment alleges Sheldon Avery Thomas, 27, lied earlier this summer while buying a Century Arms Draco pistol from dealer Action Impact. Thomas claimed he was the buyer of the gun but prosecutors say he bought the pistol for Ehmani Davis, prosecutors said. 

Slain Detroit Police Officer Loren Courts

Davis used the weapon to shoot and kill Courts, 40, during an ambush July 6 outside the shuttered Desire Unisex Salon on Joy Road near Marlowe on Detroit's west side. Courts and his partner, Amanda Hudgens, both five-year Detroit police veterans from the 2nd Precinct, were responding to a 911 call reporting that a man was firing shots out the window of his apartment with a Draco semiautomatic pistol.

Police say Davis, 19, opened fire through the closed window of his apartment unit above the hair salon, shattering glass from both the residence and the squad car. A bullet struck Courts in the neck as he sat in the cruiser, police said.

Davis was killed by police responding to the scene.

Thomas' lawyer, meanwhile, made a renewed push for bond Thursday, two days after his client was ordered to stay behind bars while awaiting trial.

A photo of Sheldon Thomas carrying a Drago pistol he'd just purchased, which federal authorities say he illegally sold to another man.

Thomas does not have a criminal history and should be released on home confinement, his lawyer Leon Parker wrote.

"A review of Mr. Thomas’ history and characteristics, and an objective analysis of the information presented in support of the allegation, clearly establish that conditions exist which would reasonably assure that Mr. Thomas’ release would neither pose a danger to any person or the community," Parker wrote.

During a detention hearing Tuesday, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Grey said Thomas posed too great of a danger to the public to be released with a GPS tether.

The Romarm/Cigir, Draco, 7.62 caliber pistol, Serial No. 21DG3219, used to kill Detroit Police Officer Loren Courts

“A tether would not stop you from encountering or engaging with other friends,” Grey said. 

Thomas allegedly sought to arm Davis, who should not have been been allowed to buy a weapon because of his criminal history, Grey said.  He pointed to audio of Thomas telling agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that Davis was “not to be f----- with,” as well as the allegation that Thomas knew Davis had been briefly jailed in an unrelated incident a year prior.

Sheldon Avery Thomas and Ehmani Davis together at Action Impact during the attempted 
firearm purchase on May 29, 2022.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Lanning argued that Thomas has made multiple efforts to supply Davis with a gun in the past, pointing out an instance from February that was unsuccessful. She also brought up an alleged incident in which Davis stole one of Thomas’ guns. 

While Thomas purportedly warned Davis via text not to do anything stupid with the gun, that wasn't enough, Grey said. During the transaction, Thomas allegedly told Davis: "Don't do anything f------- stupid because my name is on (the gun)," according to the prosecutor's criminal complaint. 

“Your judgment has proven to be terrible in relation to the government’s allegations,” Grey said to Thomas.

The legal filings come as relatives and community members prepare to mourn Courts.

Visitation is scheduled for Friday and Saturday followed by a funeral Monday

The public can pay respects at Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. Seven Mile in Detroit. Public viewing is noon-8 p.m. Saturday and 3-9 p.m. Sunday.

A funeral is 11:30 a.m. Monday, with burial at Woodlawn Cemetery, 19975 Woodward, Detroit. 

The Detroit Police Department plans a vigil at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the 2nd Precinct.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews