by Paul Bowers
Charleston police have arrested four people in connection with the June 16 shooting of 17-year-old Marley Lion in a West Ashley parking lot. The arrests came Monday after a six-week investigation that involved surveillance video enhancement from the Secret Service and an undercover gun-buying operation with help from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
In a press conference at the Charleston Police Department headquarters today, Chief Gregory Mullen said police received a tip that one of the suspects in the case was looking to sell the gun that had been used in Marley's murder. An undercover agent purchased the gun from 30-year-old Ryan Deleston on July 15 and sent it along to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division's forensic services department.
After SLED determined that the weapon had been used in the murder, police began nonstop surveillance on Deleston and the other suspects on July 29 at 2 p.m. Then, on July 30 at 9:30 a.m., police arrested Deleston as he was getting off a CARTA bus on Market Street, charging him with murder, attempted armed robbery, use of a deadly weapon during a violent crime, and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number.
Mullen did not give many details about the evidence that led to the other arrests, saying only that the men were arrested during the execution of search warrants and did not put up resistance. The suspects were charged with the following crimes:
• Bryan Rivers, 27: Murder, attempted armed robbery, distribution of an imitation controlled substance, possession of a firearm by a violent convicted felon, and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number
• Julius Brown, 32: Murder, obstruction of justice, and attempted armed robbery
• George Brown, 27: Accessory after the fact of murder and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number
A spokesman for the Charleston Police Department said that George Brown and Julius Brown are not related. Mullen said that although police had been conducting surveillance in the Ardmore neighborhood, not all of the arrestees lived there, and he did not see evidence of organized crime in the neighborhood. Mullen would not comment on which of the arrested men is charged with pulling the trigger.
Part of the case depended on video surveillance footage from around 4:05 a.m. on June 16 at 1662 Savannah Highway. The footage shows a person walk through the parking lot shortly before the shooting. Later, it shows another person approach Lions' vehicle, leave when its car alarm starts going off, and then return after about 20 seconds and fire a gun several times into the vehicle. Previously, police had said the first person who walked through the parking lot was a person of interest and not a suspect in the case, but today, Mullen said that person has been arrested.
Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the case highlighted the importance of having video surveillance cameras installed at businesses, and she said she hoped to see legislation or local ordinances that would lead to the installation of more video cameras. Surveillance footage is "the backbone of prosecutions these days," Wilson said. "Juries expect it now. They want to see it now, and they believe, based on CSI and Law & Order and everything else, that there's video everywhere. We know that there's not always, but with the city's help, we can have more of that, and with local businesses' help, we can have that as well."
Mullen credited lead Detective Richard Burkhardt for his day-and-night work on the case and thanked CrimeStoppers and private citizens for providing tips and information. His voice quavered as he announced the arrests and thanked the police department for its work. Later, he said this was one of two homicide cases that he will always remember, the other being the 2009 shooting of 15-year-old Jermel Brown.
"Unfortunately, sometimes I don't think the community or maybe even the media understands that this is not just a job for us," Mullen said. "I take this personally. These people take it personally. We spend a lot of sleepless nights worrying about what's going to happen next, and you never want to get the call that there's a murder, but you certainly never want to get the call that it's a juvenile and it's for absolutely no reason at all."
Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. also spoke at the press conference. "To those who have no regard for law, life, order, community, peace, and security — those who chose a life outside the law — this is my message to you," Riley said. "In Charleston, we will catch you, and you will go to jail. Your crime might be in the darkness of the night with seemingly no one around, but we will catch you, and you will go to jail. There is no place to hide. We will catch you as we did with Marley Lion's killers."