Four charged in conspiracy to burglarize gun dealerships

By Bill Dwyer for Chronicle Media

Four men were charged with conspiring to steal guns from six licensed firearms dealers around the Peoria region.

A convicted felon on supervised release from previous gun theft convictions was among four Peoria residents arrested Aug. 18 and charged with conspiring to steal guns from six licensed firearms dealers around the Peoria region.

Federal prosecutors have charged that felon Terrence Daniels, 23, along with Dezmond Hardy, 22, Erika Garner, 21 and Shaleik Ward, 19 with one count each of conspiring to steal guns from a federal firearms licensee.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley ordered that all four be held in the custody of the U.S. Marshall Service pending further court proceedings.

Hardy, Garner and Daniels each allegedly made statements acknowledging their involvement in the attempted burglaries between Aug. 14 and Aug. 18. Daniels allegedly stated that he, Hardy and a relative of Hardy were approached by another person who offered them money to steal firearms. Ward denied any criminal involvement.

Daniels was previously arrested in 2020 and charged federally after he and another man stole a total of 53 guns from half a dozen dealerships in five Central Illinois counties between Dec. 25, 2019 and March 4, 2020, using smash-and-grab tactics. Daniels pleaded guilty to seven criminal counts and in January 2021 was sentenced to 33 months in prison. He was released in July 2022 on supervised release.

In June 2023, police were called to Daniels’ Peoria apartment after a neighbor reported hearing a heated argument, heard a gunshot, and saw Daniels holding a firearm.

Told he was under arrested on a warrant for failure to appear in court, Daniels bolted from police and was captured after a brief foot chase.

He was subsequently ordered on July 7 to serve 30 days home confinement and electronic monitoring.

On Aug. 14, police were alerted around 3 a.m. to an attempted burglary of Mean Metal, a gun dealer in Spring Valley. Officers discovered that a glass window of the business had been shattered. The next day, police in Taylorville responded to an attempted burglary at another gun dealer, Powder Keg Outfitter. As in the first incident, a window had been shattered.

By then, agents of the Peoria Area Federal Firearms Task Force, using security camera video, had identified Hardy as a suspect, recovered a car license plate number, and a residential address related to the car. Over the next three days, additional burglary attempts were reported at Guns and Glory in Le Roy, Tactical Bunker in Lincoln, Archers Alley in Decatur and Smiley’s Sport Shop in Bloomington.

Investigators say that Hardy threw a brick through a window at Mean Metal and Daniels then attempted to climb through the security bars. Daniels reportedly told investigators after his arrest his arm cast and recent weight gain “factored into his inability to slide between the bars at gun stores like he was able to do when he burglarized multiple gun dealers in 2020.”

The next day, Daniels, Hardy and others drove to Taylorville, where they attempted to burglarize Powder Keg Outfitters at 115 N. Webster St. Once again, Hardy threw a brick through a window, and both he and Daniels allegedly entered the dealership, but soon left without any weapons.

Police followed one of the cars throughout the night on Aug. 17, as it traveled to Le Roy and made “multiple passes” by the Guns and Glory gun dealership over a 30-minute period. The car then drove to Lincoln as law enforcement followed, where it again made multiple drive-bys of the Tactical Bunker dealership over a 30-minute period, and later at another gun dealership.

The car was followed back to a residence in Peoria, where police were able to place a tracking device on it. Daniels, Hardy, Garner and Ward were arrested the next day.