Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Two men indicted in Pendleton shooting

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Two Tristate men have been indicted on federal charges in an apparent drug deal gone bad this year that left a 1996 Turpin High School graduate dead and a Newport man with brain damage.

        A federal indictment was unsealed Tuesday in connection with the incident. It took place April 27 at an alleged pit bull fighting facility in Pendleton County and names two men.

        If convicted, Justin Davis, 24, of Greenwood in rural Pendleton County could face up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

[photo] Kentucky State Police and Pendleton County Sheriff Lark “Buddy” O'Hara (left) investigate the scene near where Justin Davis said he shot two of four people who tried to break into his home.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Mr. Davis is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine and marijuana, and with discharging a semiautomatic assault weapon during a drug trafficking crime.

        Robert Koch, if convicted, could face up to 35 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines, according to the grand jury indictment. It was unclear where Mr. Koch was living at the time of the shooting, but he attended Turpin High School for a short time in the 1990s.

        Mr. Koch is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine and marijuana, discharging a firearm during a drug traffic crime, and using marijuana while unlawfully in possession of a firearm.

        Mr. Davis and Mr. Cook have pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to the records unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Covington. The two men have been denied bond and are in federal custody at an undisclosed location.

The casualties

        Police have revealed little since the shooting in rural Pendleton County nearly six months ago, which Mr. Davis had at first reported as a home invasion. Police have since said that there was no home invasion.

        Turpin High School graduate Robert E. Gibson Jr., 23, of Anderson Township died at the scene of a gunshot wound to the back, according to family members and friends.

        Mr. Gibson, who was about 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 220 pounds, was a linebacker at Turpin.

        He had received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps less than a year before he was killed, said Mr. Gibson's aunt, Crystal Holmes of Cincinnati. She said her nephew, who would have been 24 on Sept. 11, was a member of an anti-terrorism security division.

        “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Ms. Holmes, who raised her nephew. “It was a senseless act.”

        Pat O'Brien of Newport, 47 at the time of the incident, was shot in the back of the head, according to authorities. On May 14, University Hospital transferred Mr. O'Brien to a rehabilitation hospital operated by Drake Center Inc. Drake officials would not confirm that Mr. O'Brien was a patient there.

        Neither Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Voorhees and Commonwealth Attorney John M. Keith would say why murder charges and attempted murder charges have not been filed.

        Ms. Voorhees would also not say if either of the two men in custody actually shot Mr. Gibson or Mr. O'Brien.

What happened?

        Law enforcement officials familiar with the case detail a wild scene the morning of the shootout.

        Mr. Gibson, Mr. O'Brien, Mr. Koch and a fourth person, who has not been identified, drove from Covington to rural Pendleton County near Butler. They arrived at a remote trailer rented to Mr. Davis sometime between 5 and 6 a.m.

        Events escalated until there was a shootout between Mr. Koch and Mr. Davis. Mr. Koch fired a Colt .45-caliber pistol, according to court records, and Mr. Davis fired a semiautomatic rifle.

        Police and prosecutors will not say what they believe the men were doing at the trailer. Federal court records say Mr. Koch and Mr. Davis conspired to possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana.

        Mr. Davis has also been indicted with three counts of cruelty to animals, according to state court records on file at the Pendleton County Courthouse in Falmouth.

        According to the records, police uncovered a videotape showing Mr. Davis running pit bull fights. On the videotape, Mr. Davis was wearing the same clothes that he had on the night of the shooting, according to court records.

        State police, who investigated the shooting, say Mr. Davis admitted in an April police interview to fighting dogs in the past but said he had quit over fears his fighting pit bull named “Buddy” would be taken away by authorities.

        Mr. Davis and Mr. Koch are scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. pre-trial conference Nov. 15 at the federal courthouse in Covington in advance of a Nov. 28 jury trial on federal charges.

        Mr. Davis is scheduled for a 9 a.m. pre-trial conference at the Pendleton County Courthouse in Falmouth on Nov. 15 on the animal cruelty charges.

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