Miss. man fined, sentenced in theft, explosion of Camp Shelby munitions
The Sun Herald
GULFPORT, Miss. — Lance Daniel Looney of Gulfport apologized to the community before a federal judge gave him seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine for his role in the theft of explosives from a military firing range for a loosely organized scrap-metal business.
The explosives were 84-mm AT4s, armor-piercing anti-tank rounds Looney and others stole from Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg to cut up and sell for scrap. The thefts were discovered Jan. 19 after a device exploded on Saucier Lane in Gulfport, where a man was cutting up one of the rounds with an acetylene torch. It left him crippled and partially blind.
"I'm very sorry for what happened and I'm sorry someone could have died," Looney, 26, said at his sentencing Tuesday.
Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola called the business venture "foolish" and "an ill-advised enterprise."
The judge said he questioned "the thought process" of those who drove pickup trucks through a hole one of them had cut in a firing-range fence to collect the explosives and transport them to the Coast.
Three children were living in a house on the property where the devices were stored in a neighborhood near a school and churches. Authorities found 51 complete or partial rounds on the property.
The rounds were taken from a firing range so dangerous that targets for military practice are brought in by helicopter, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent said.
Looney, who was living on Saucier Lane, accepted a plea agreement to possession of a destructive device. An ATF agent said Looney had sold a load of the cut-and-cleaned scrap to a Mobile recycling business for $3,000 and split the money with his friends.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams said the men were charged under laws that apply to terrorist acts, but the government doesn't believe that was the men's intent.
The judge agreed, and said he didn't want to minimize Looney's involvement, but said Looney was "less culpable" than two friends sentenced Sept. 10. Looney was involved in the scheme about a month and his only other brush with the law was an arrest for public drunkenness several years ago, the judge said.
The ring leader, Jimmy Lee Wilson of Gulfport, and David Eugene Bangs of Biloxi, both had prior felony convictions, and Wilson admitted he had been taking munitions from Camp Shelby for up to 25 years.
The three men faced 30 years to life in prison on a three-count indictment.
Wilson, 48, received an eight-year prison term and was fined $10,000 on a plea to transporting explosives. Bangs, 48, was sentenced to seven years and fined $7,500 for possession of a destructive device. They will each have three years of probation after prison.
Jimmy Wilson's brother, Jack Wilson, 46, will be sentenced Nov. 15. The Wilsons' sister, Lucy Rebecca Saucier, 50, was indicted but died March 14.
Their injured relative, Dale Ray Johnson, 33, was not charged.
Johnson would have died if Looney had not driven him to a fire station for help after the explosion, said Arthur Carlisle, Looney's attorney.