Marijuana May be Key to Alger County Attack

A utility company employee’s quick action, and a quick police response, led to a safe resolution in a bizarre hostage situation in Alger County Tuesday. It happened Tuesday morning at the home of a medical marijuana provider in Munising Township.

Michigan State Police say the utility company employee was making a service call on a utility meter at a home in Munising Township about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday when he saw a broken sliding glass door at the home. Inside the broken door, the utility service employee could see a man wearing “urban camouflage clothing” standing next to a man bound to a chair with tape.

The utility company employee immediately left the scene and alerted police. When police from several agencies arrived at the home, multiple suspects fled on foot. Five suspects were taken into custody: three found in the woods near the residence, one in a vehicle near the home and another in a motel in the Munising area.

Police say they believe entry was made into the home by the suspects shooting out the rear sliding glass door of the home. And, that during the incident, two suspects were armed with guns, while one had a baseball bat. One individual was said to be wearing body armor during the attack. They were gathering items from the home to steal, police say, when authorities arrived at the scene.

The victim, a native of Chicago who had recently moved to the Munising area, was reportedly beaten with the baseball bat and hit in the head with a pistol. In addition to being a medicinal marijuana provider, the man also manufactures marijuana at his residence. Police believe this contributed to the incident.

Authorities released one of the five suspects, after an investigation determined that individual was not involved in the incident. However, a total of 34 felony counts have been filed against the other four men.

Those four men have been identified as 32 year old Issac Cotto of Pewaukee, Wisconsin; 29 year old Isreal Velez of Chicago; 24 year old George Carmona of Chicago, and 35 year old Ruben Rodriguez of the Chicago area town of Elmwood Park, Illinois. The four are each being held in Alger County on $250,000 cash surety bonds. Each of them face eight felony counts. Carmona, Rodriguez and Velez are charged with the following eight crimes, Cotto is charged with aiding and abetting those charges.

(1) home invasion, 1st degree

(2) conspiracy to commit home invasion, 1st degree

(3) unlawful imprisonment

(4) conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment

(5) armed robbery

(6) conspiracy to commit armed robbery

(7) weapons- felony firearm

(8) assault with intent to do great bodily harm

Additionally, Carmona is charged with wearing body armor during the commission of a crime; Rodriguez is charged with the weapons charge of the discharge of a firearm in or at a building.

These are serious crimes, with serious penalties: home invasion carries a sentence of up to 20 years, armed robbery is punishable by up to life in prison. The four men are scheduled to be in 93rd District Court in Alger County later in the month for a preliminary hearing.

The incident remains under investigation by the Michigan State Police at the Negaunee Post and Munising Detachment. MSP was assisted by the Alger County Sheriff Department, the Munising City Police Department and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officers.

Posted by Cynthia Thompson

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