DUNCAN — In a surprise move, a prosecutor Wednesday upgraded to first-degree murder the case against the teenager who cooperated with police early on in the investigation of the random shooting of a jogger.
The prosecutor also revealed in court that Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, is a suspect in two other shootings.
After cooperating with police, Jones initially was charged only with accessory to murder after the fact and use of a motor vehicle in the discharge of a weapon.
Prosecutors dropped those counts Wednesday and filed the murder case against Jones instead.
The change means all three Duncan teenagers arrested after the Aug. 16 drive-by shooting now face a first-degree murder charge.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20 for Jones, Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards Jr., 16.
The victim, Christopher Lane, 22, was in Duncan visiting his girlfriend. He was shot in the back while jogging along a street during the afternoon of Aug. 16. Authorities in the past have described the shooting as a thrill killing.
The shooting has attracted international attention because Lane was from Australia. He was in Oklahoma on a college scholarship to play baseball.
Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks told reporters Wednesday he could not explain why he upgraded the charge against Jones. He said he could not elaborate because a judge has issued a gag order prohibiting statements outside the courtroom about the case.
Jones claimed the three teenagers targeted the jogger because they were bored, the Duncan police chief said in August before the judge issued the gag order.
In an Aug. 18 police interview, Jones admitted he was driving, Edwards was in the front seat and Luna was in the back seat, according to court affidavits.
“Jones advised that Chancey Luna had fired the shot that struck Christopher Lane and that Jones heard Christopher Lane scream as the shot was fired,” a district attorney's investigator wrote in court affidavits.
Jones was in court only a few minutes Wednesday afternoon. He was dressed in orange jail clothes and his hands were chained to a belt around his waist. Stephens County Special Judge Jerry Herberger denied bail. Jones' parents left quickly after the hearing without speaking to reporters.
The district attorney had asked the judge to deny bail, saying Jones was a danger to the community.
“We have information the defendant may have been involved in another shooting earlier in the day as well as the night before,” the district attorney told the judge.
He did not elaborate.
There was another fatal shooting in Duncan on Aug. 16 — of a donkey.
The animal's owner, Jim Brasher, 74, told The Oklahoman the gentle, female donkey was shot at 8 a.m. Aug. 16. “We counted eight holes,” he said.
He said the jogger was shot half a mile west and half a mile south of where his donkey was killed.
He said police have not told him his donkey's death is connected to the jogger's death. “It's a hushed up deal,” Brasher said.
The prosecutor's revelation Wednesday of other shootings likely will reignite the public speculation that Lane's shooting was part of a gang initiation.
Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford has insisted in the past the shooting was not gang related, although he has described the defendants as gang “wannabes.” The three were arrested Aug. 16 after the father of another teenager called police and reported he thought they wanted to kill his son.
The father, James Johnson, told an Australian newspaper his son had been threatened on Facebook.
“They threatened to kill my son because they are in a gang, the Crips, and were trying to get my son in it and I wouldn't let him do it. I told him he couldn't run with those boys. He's a little terrified,” Johnson said.
In Facebook photos, Luna and Edwards appear to flash gang signs.