Man accused of buying gun used to kill Detroit officer Loren Courts pleads not guilty

Hayley Harding
The Detroit News

Detroit — The man accused of buying the gun later used to kill a Detroit police officer pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday.

Sheldon Avery Thomas, 27, is accused of lying about the intended owner of a firearm when he bought it in June. Prosecutors say he said told a gun store that the AK-style semiautomatic pistol was for himself when it was really intended for Ehmani Davis.

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

"Straw purchasing," or claiming a gun you're buying is for yourself instead of someone who cannot have one, is a federal crime punishable by a maximum of $250,000 and 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Davis used the gun to kill Detroit Police Officer Loren Courts, 40, on July 6. Davis was killed by police responding to a report of shots being fired.

Appearing in a red jumpsuit and a white mask, Thomas was quiet and polite when speaking in court. Thomas, represented by Leon Parker, did not say much beyond acknowledging his rights.

The case was assigned to Judge Gershwin A. Drain.

Prosecutors allege Thomas bought the pistol – which comes with a high-capacity 30-round magazine – from dealer Action Impact in Eastpointe in June and later met Davis in a parking lot to sell it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Lanning argued during a detention hearing that Thomas has made multiple efforts to supply Davis with a firearm 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. 

A memorial for slain Officer Loren Courts during a vigil to honor his life at the 2nd Precinct on July 15.

Police say Davis, 19, opened fire in an ambush on police July 6 through the closed window of his apartment unit above 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 the apartment. A bullet struck Courts in the neck as he sat in his police cruiser.

The case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Detroit Police Department.

Staff writer Robert Snell contributed to this story.

Twitter: @Hayley__Harding

Correction: Ehmani Davis was the individual killed by police after the shooting death of Officer Loren Courts.