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Thanksgiving shooting spree defendants could face terrorism charge

Updated December 30, 2020 - 8:38 pm

A trio charged in a fatal Thanksgiving shooting spree that stretched from Henderson into Arizona may have been motivated purely by the desire to terrorize anyone in their path, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Outside a court hearing for Shawn McDonnell, 31, and his wife, Kayleigh Lewis, 25, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Dickerson said prosecutors had collected evidence from multiple jurisdictions to build their case.

McDonnell’s 28-year-old brother, Christopher, is also jailed in the shootings.

Prosecutors had suggested that the suspects may have been targeting Black individuals, but Dickerson indicated that terrorism could be added to the list of charges against them, which include murder and attempted murder.

“In assessing everything that we see here, it appears that this was a crime spree that occurred motivated by these individuals’ intent to cause violence to the general population,” Dickerson said. “That’s why we’re looking at the act of terrorism as a potential charging decision and enhancement to the charges.”

Prosecutors are also weighing the death penalty.

“The gravity of the charges surrounding the events is incredibly high,” Dickerson said.

Defense attorneys have declined comment.

In one of the string of shootings, 22-year-old Kevin Mendiola Jr., of North Las Vegas, was killed and three others injured in front of a 7-Eleven on the 800 block of East Lake Mead Parkway in Henderson.

In a statement to authorities, Christopher McDonnell said his brother told him to “shoot the Black guy” and referenced an “upcoming war,” prosecutors said.

Dickerson on Wednesday stopped short of ruling out a hate crime enhancement but noted that victims were of varied races and genders.

Four other shootings occurred on Henderson roads around the same time, according to a Henderson police report. At least 10 people were targeted, and authorities received a report of another shooting that could bring that total to 11, prosecutors said.

The crimes continued in the Parker, Arizona, area, where authorities said five more shootings occurred before the trio from Tyler, Texas, was arrested. Authorities said the arrests followed a vehicle chase, a crash and a shooting by officers of the Arizona Department of Public Safety in La Paz County.

The McDonnells and Lewis had traveled as far as Washington, D.C., before returning west to the Las Vegas area. On that drive, District Attorney Steve Wolfson has said, they crafted a plan for a series of shootings.

In the month since the shootings, authorities have continued to trace the trio’s path across the country.

“Thanks to the efforts of the Henderson Police Department, Metro, Mohave County Sheriff, La Paz County sheriff and the FBI, we’ve really been able to get a view of everything that these guys were doing from the lead up coming into Nevada,” Dickerson said. “And what we see is just a continuous crime spree to commit grievous bodily harm upon people.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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