Three men arrested by Kansas drug agents in an alleged murder plot may have ties to last month’s shooting of Carbondale police Officer Trey Harris, authorities say.
The three were booked on suspicion of conspiracy to commit capital murder against three men not connected with the officer.
The suspects were being held Thursday in the Saline County, Kan., jail in lieu of $1 million bail each.
Sources say the three are accused of traveling to Illinois to carry out a drug-contract killing that never happened; instead, they ended up in a high-speed chase on July 31 that involved Harris, who was shot in the face during the chase.
Harris, 26, was treated to a St. Louis hospital for serious injuries, but he has since been released.
Thursday night, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Southern Illinois Miners minor-league game in Marion on a night honoring members of law enforcement.
Authorities say Alex Bryan Karcher, 22, Xavier Lee McCray, 22, and Xavier Everett Lewis, 24, were arrested late Sunday night or early Monday morning in central Kansas.
Officers from the I-135/I-70 Drug Task Force, Saline County Sheriff’s Office, the Salina, Kan., Police Department and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation were among those who made the arrests.
Charges allege the trio traveled to Illinois to carry out a contract murder against three people.
Karcher, McCray and Lewis are all residents of Kansas.
Jail records show Karcher and Lewis living in Salina; no hometown is listed for McCray.
The Salina Journal covered the initial court appearance for the three men on Wednesday in Saline County District Court.
Criminal complaints accuse the men of “unlawfully, feloniously and intentionally” agreeing to assist in the crime of capital murder “pursuant to a contract or agreement to kill” between July 27 and Aug. 1 and of traveling to Jackson County to commit the crime, the Journal reported.
Their intended victims were Judios Kizeart, Darien Williams-Wright and Robert Harris, according to the complaints, the Journal says.
Those intended victims are alive and are listed among the state’s witnesses on the complaints, the Journal says.
In an announcement Wednesday, the Carbondale Police Department made the connection between the Kansas arrests and the shooting of its officer.
It says, “The Kansas investigation culminated in a sealed indictment in Saline County, Kansas that is associated with the July 31, 2016, shooting in Carbondale.”
The Kansas case doesn’t include charges for assaulting the Carbondale officer.
Michael Carr, the state’s attorney in Jackson County could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Carbondale police say Carr is working with prosecutors in Kansas.
Harris has been with the Carbondale police force more than three years.
Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry said at a City Council meeting this week that Harris was lucky the bullets didn’t hit his brain stem and he hoped Harris won’t lose his eye.
Carbondale Deputy Police Chief Stan Reno said he talks to Harris daily.
“He’s in good spirits,” he said. “We’re blessed he wasn’t injured worse than he is.”
Harris was on patrol in Carbondale late on the night of July 31 when he and other officers heard shots and drove their vehicles toward the sound of the gunfire.
Police then saw a tan, four-door vehicle speed off.
Carbondale officers tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused to pull over. During the pursuit, someone in the vehicle fired several shots at the officers.
Harris was hit.
Police did not return fire, authorities say.
The shots that hit Harris came from a vehicle that was later found abandoned and destroyed by fire in neighboring Williamson County.
The City of Carbondale offered a $15,000 reward for information that leads to the “identity, arrest and conviction” of the person or persons who shot Harris.
A task force led by the Illinois State Police investigated the shooting.
Anyone who wants to make donations to help in Harris’ recovery can send checks payable to “CPD Injured Officers Fund” to the City of Carbondale Police Department, 501 South Washington Street, Carbondale, IL 62901.
Officer Harris threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Southern Illinois Miners minor league baseball game Thursday night in Marion.
Wearing a Miners’ jersey and shorts, Harris jogged to the mound to the thunderous sound of applause, whistles and cheers, the Southern Illinoisan reported.
John Wilson, general manager of the team, said said half of the ticket money from the game will go to the CPD Injured Officers Fund.
Wilson said his players wore ballcaps from local police departments.
About 35 police agencies, from Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri, planned to have officers attend the game. The evening was called “Stand Up for Blue Night.”
Every fan at the stadium was be given a placard to show support for an officer.
(c) 2016 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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