PEORIA, Ill. – A man from Peoria, Ill., Jeron C. McNeal, 29, from the 200 block of Northeast Rock Island Avenue, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison and three years of supervised release on October 20. 2021, because of his involvement in the break-in of a state-licensed arms dealer and because of false information given to federal police officers. U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade also sentenced McNeal to $ 1,000 in damages. McNeal will remain in custody and report to the Bureau of Prisons on February 1, 2022.
At the sentencing hearing, the government presented evidence that on June 1, 2020, McNeal was a driver of an SUV whose occupants were involved in looting incidents in the city of Peoria. At around 2:00 a.m., McNeal and a caravan of about 30 cars pulled up outside Pinnacle Gun & Ammo, a state gun licensee on 701 Main Street. Two minors left McNeal’s SUV and entered a shattered Pinnacle windshield along with about seven other unidentified people. McNeal’s sister, Chayla R. McNeal, stood by the SUV and recorded the incident on her cell phone. Each of the two minors with McNeal stole firearms from the store and ran back to McNeal’s SUV waiting outside. When police entered the chase, McNeal fled with the male minor and several guns. The minor was unable to retire to McNeal’s SUV in time and was arrested by police. The underage woman was in possession of three stolen weapons when she was arrested. A total of 29 firearms were stolen when Pinnacle was looted.
The government provided additional evidence that federal agents located and interviewed McNeal on June 1, 2020. He admitted driving the black Cadillac SUV that belonged to him and that was parked outside Pinnacle at the time of the break-in. He also admitted driving shop to shop around town that night and being present at looting. However, McNeal made false statements to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives by falsely claiming that (1) he only stopped in front of Pinnacle because he was stuck in traffic; (2) he did not know that someone was getting out of his SUV during the break-in; and (3) he misrepresented who was in the SUV when he went to Pinnacle.
At McNeal’s conviction hearing, Judge McDade commented that McNeal did not have an extensive criminal record and may not have understood the enormity of what he was doing because he failed to realize that if caught, he would go to jail. Given the gravity of the crime, Judge McDade said that giving stolen firearms into the hands of those who cannot lawfully possess them contributes to street violence. To date, five of the twenty-nine guns have been recovered.
McNeal was arrested on September 18, 2020 and pleaded guilty to Judge McDade on June 2, 2021.
The offense of stealing from a licensed arms dealer carries a legal sentence of up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $ 250,000, and three years of supervised release from prison. The legal penalty for misrepresentation is up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $ 250,000, and three years of custodial release from prison.
Chayla R. McNeal has also pleaded guilty to breaking into a state-licensed arms dealer and making false statements to a federal police officer. Her verdict is scheduled for November 5, 2021 before the federal court in Peoria.
The Peoria Police Department and the US Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are investigating the case. US Assistant Attorney Ronald L. Hanna represented the government on the prosecution.