Gautier police say two men arrested in home invasion also led neighborhood paramilitary group
Published: Thursday, December 08, 2011, 7:44 AM
Capt.Kenny McMellon of the Gautier Police Department stands with a bullet-resistant vest, a shirt, gloves and a manual seized from two men accused of a home invasion on Tuesday. (Harlan Kirgan/Press-Register)
GAUTIER, Mississippi — Two men described as the commander and captain of a neighborhood para-military group in north Gautier were arrested Tuesday and charged with home invasion and kidnapping after three people were attacked in their home in the 1700 block of Dailey Road.
Gautier Police Detective Sgt. Matthew Hoggatt identified those arrested as Michael Shaun Schaffran, 32, of the 1600 block of Dailey Road, and Cody Jacob Rogers, 18, of the 7300 block of Francis Street.
Shaffran, recently from Arizona and tagged as the commander, has a lengthy criminal history that includes felony convictions for theft, forgery and aggravated assault, Hoggatt said.
Schaffran had a knife at the time of his arrest, police stated in a news release. Rogers was not armed.
The victims were a man and woman in their 30s and a 70-year-old man, said Capt. Kenny McMellon.
Schafran and Rogers led four neighborhood youths, ages ranging from 16 to 18, in hand-to-hand combat, reconnaissance, para-military operations and Bible scripture reading.
The “training” was taking place in woods in the neighborhood, McMellon said.
The group had a manual and members held ranks in the organization, he said in a news conference Wednesday at the Gautier City Hall.
Hoggatt stated in a news release that the two were acting as members of “The Savior Unit” or “Tactical Support Unit.”
The two men were arrested at about 8 p.m. Tuesday after Gautier police responded to a report of a home invasion at a residence on Dailey Road, Hoggatt stated.
Detective Jonathan Whitfield said the three victims suffered bruises and was moved out the house against their will to the front yard where they forced to kneel.
One of the victims managed to run away and make the 911 call, he said.
The attackers were attired in a bullet-resistance vest and military garb, police said.
Hoggatt said police know of no connection between the victims and attackers.
“There is some conflicting information why this happened here,” he said. “But there is no indication the victims had any wrongdoing.
“Last night, there was no record of any police responses to their house in the past and there is no indication that they were doing anything illegal. So, that‚s part of what this investigation is to determine why there were targeted.”
McMellon said the group had come to attention of police a few days ago and tips were obtained as police investigated 18 burglaries that occurred in south Gautier last week.
McMellon said a link to the Tuesday’s arrests and the burglaries had not been made.
The burglaries involved kicking doors in, as did Tuesday’s Daily Road home invasion.
“Some of the tips about this group came in reference to those activities,” McMellon said. “Some of the tips and information we received put a spotlight on this group. We haven’t connected the dots yet.”
McMellon said an operation manual for the group was found and included the following statement:
“T.S.U. is a tactical search team that is faith based. Our purpose is to promote Christ. Obtain offenders who are a danger to society, do community service work for churches and halfway houses, and do security for different functions. Our training is a recon and infiltration, apprehension and retrieval. All team members are taught hand to hand combat skills, para military training and scriptures.”
McMellon said the group had been in existence for six weeks.
“You can use your imagination and speculate where was this headed, what could have happened, what might have happened,” he said.
McMellon and other officers said nothing similar had occurred in Gautier before.
Hoggatt said police are working with federal authorities to determine if federal violations have occurred.
“We don‚t know if there is any linkage to other groups,” Hoggatt said. “Nothing would surprise me at this point. You think you’ve seen it all and then you see something like this.”
Detective Danny Patrick said, “You look at a situation like this and you really don’t know where it could have gone to.”
Schaffran and Rogers were taken to the Jackson County Adult Detention Center.
Bail had not been set on the two as of Wednesday‚s news conference.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the Gautier Police Department at 228-497-2486 or Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers.
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