Accused shooter in Bentley homicide arrested; police still looking for one suspect

Thursday, June 12, 2008 | 7:10 p.m. CDT; updated 1:43 a.m. CST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009

COLUMBIA — The man accused of pulling the trigger in the fatal shooting of Nathaniel Bentley was arrested Thursday afternoon after an hour-long standoff with Columbia police at a motel on Business Loop 70 East. It was the fourth arrest in 24 hours in connection with the killing; one man remained at large as of Thursday afternoon.

The accused shooter, Damon A. Williams, 23, of Ashland, was taken into custody at 2:03 p.m. after leaving a room at the Eastwood Motel, Capt. Brad Nelson said. Police received a tip on the CrimeStoppers line at 12:54 p.m. that Williams was at the motel.

Officers confirmed Williams was in the room, surrounded it and cleared out adjacent rooms. Members of the SWAT team and other officers responded with guns drawn and tried to make contact with Williams, who police thought might have an assault rifle.

Nelson said police were in contact with Williams by phone during the standoff and also tried to talk to him through a bullhorn. After making several other phone calls, Williams emerged from the room and was taken into custody.

“He was calm, and he didn’t put up any resistance,” Nelson said.

Williams was charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. Bond was set at $1 million, Nelson said.

Bentley was fatally shot in the head early Tuesday morning after a home-invasion robbery at a duplex on Pimlico Drive in southeast Columbia.

A fifth suspect, Quiliam E. Jacobs, 17, remains at large and faces the same charges as Williams. Nelson said police have received no tips as to Jacobs’ whereabouts.

Three men were arrested Wednesday in connection with Bentley’s slaying.

The case broke Tuesday, the day of the homicide, after police used GPS tracking to locate a cell phone taken from one of the people who were robbed during the home invasion. The phone’s signal was tracked down to Route WW near Rolling Hills Road, Nelson said. The tracking system only narrows down to a block-sized radius so an extensive search ensued. Finally, police found a small semi-automatic gun with the phone, Nelson said.

In tracing the gun, police discovered it had been stolen in a recent residential burglary in Boone County. Police believed one suspect who was involved in the burglary was also involved in the robbery that ended in Bentley’s slaying. At 2:32 p.m. Wednesday, police arrested Denzell L. Smith, 17, on suspicion of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. His bond is set at $500,000.

After several hours of interviewing, Smith made statements incriminating other suspects.

Malcolm A. Washington, 26, and Michael Jaco, 17, were arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. Washington’s bond was set at $500,500 as was Jaco’s.

Interviewing took hours, Nelson said. “This isn’t CSI on TV.”

Washington was scheduled to be tried for misdemeanor unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor domestic assault, two counts of misdemeanor property damage and misdemeanor peace disturbance on July 15 in Boone County Circuit Court.

Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary in January and was serving a suspended six-year sentence. In late May, Williams also pleaded guilty to felony receiving stolen property and was serving a suspended four-year sentence. He was placed on five years of supervised probation.

The police have had “fantastic cooperation with witnesses, neighbors and victims,” Nelson said. “The fact we have an arrest within 48 hours is what happens when we have this level of cooperation.”

Anyone with information should contact CrimeStoppers at 875-TIPS.

Chad Day contributed to this report.

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