Sentence given in unarmed robbery
Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Archie Brown gave Jeremiah Kena Sawyer a 3-year-and-8-month sentence April 25, for the unarmed robbery of Eastern Michigan University student Darin Thomas Smith on Aug. 24, 2011.
EMU Department of Public Safety reported Sawyer stole Smith’s backpack, which contained his laptop and other personal items, from the gymnastics room in the Warner Building where Smith was working out.
Two males who were with Sawyer at the time of the theft were not charged in the incident.
The police report said Smith pursued Sawyer outside the building to recover his property, at which point Sawyer dropped the backpack and punched Smith in the face four times.
At that time EMU students Debra Ennis and Lukas Burch, photo editor for The Eastern Echo, walked upon the scene; Burch was not on assignment that night.
Ennis shouted at the men to leave the victim alone as she didn’t immediately recognize Smith.
Smith shouted for his friend Ennis to push the panic button on the nearby emergency assistance station, but the equipment was malfunctioning so Ennis used her cell phone to call 911.
DPS Detective Joe Braunschneider said the emergency station hadn’t been working for about six months and numerous work orders had been submitted to EMU’s Physical Plant Division requesting it be repaired.
“I don’t know if it was falling through the cracks or what, but when President [Martin] found out about that, that was about eight o’clock at night, I think that thing was working by midnight,” Braunschneider said.
Physical Plant Division Director of Facilities Maintenance Bilal Sarsour was not able to respond prior to publication.
Sawyer decided to flee the scene, but was pursued by Burch on foot.
Smith was able to flag down DPS officer Doug Wing, who happened to be in the area on routine patrol.
Burch followed Sawyer behind Renaissance Apartments on the north side of St. Johns Street, while on his cell phone giving a 911 operator Sawyer’s description and direction of travel.
Braunschneider said Burch testified he could have caught up to Sawyer, but decided to let officers apprehend him after seeing how violent Sawyer was.
Sawyer then ducked into the Kampus Korner gas station on the corner of North Huron River Drive and Ann Street, on the northeast edge of EMU’s campus.
DPS Sgt. Mathias Buckson pulled into the gas station parking lot as Sawyer entered the business; he verified the suspect’s description with police dispatch and entered the premises with weapon drawn and detained Sawyer.
Smith and Ennis were transported to the gas station and identified Sawyer, who was then taken in for questioning and processing.
Both Smith and Ennis did not respond to requests for comments for this article.
Sawyer identified himself to police as David McKennely Thomas, and said he came to Ypsilanti from Toledo, Ohio to visit his girlfriend. Officers went to the girlfriend’s address and she identified the suspect as Jeremiah Sawyer.
When EMU DPS got Sawyer’s fingerprints back they found he had a parole violation warrant in Lucas County, Ohio, where he was incarcerated with David Thomas in a juvenile detention center from June to July of 2011, for a previous robbery conviction.
Sawyer was placed at a halfway house after being released from juvenile detention, but ran away less than 24 hours later.
Sawyer’s mother Tara White told police that she had kicked her son out of her house because he had assaulted her in front of her other seven children.