Authorities argued Tuesday that the shooting death of a Moline man in December was the result of a dispute between gang members in which he was not involved.
William T. Fowler, 31, of Moline, was shot about 6 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, in the 400 block of 8th Street, according to the Moline Police Department. He was hospitalized locally, then sent to an Iowa City, Iowa, hospital, where he died. Investigators believe the residence Fowler was in was deliberately attacked but Fowler was not the intended target of the shooters.
Nathan C. Luten, 29, East Moline, is one of three people accused in Fowler's killing, according to Rock Island County court records and authorities. All three have been charged with first-degree murder.
Luten had a preliminary hearing on Tuesday. In such proceedings, prosecutors present an outline of the case being built against a defendant. This is usually done through a police witness who testifies before a judge, who must then decide whether there is enough evidence to continue the prosecution.
The threshold for finding probable cause in a preliminary hearing is not considered high. The defendant can choose to waive the hearing, allowing the case to continue, but this is not considered an admission of guilt. Luten chose to have the hearing.
On Dec. 9, Fowler was at a neighbor's house when gunfire began, Moline Police Detective Eddie Alaniz testified before Judge Frank Fuhr. The resident found the wounded Fowler in the living room shortly after.
"She observed William Fowler," Alaniz said. "He was slumped over."
Fowler had been shot in the back of the head, the detective told the judge. Investigators later determined the gunfire had come through windows from outside on the west and south sides of the home, Alaniz testified.
During the investigation, the resident told police she was in a relationship with a man who was involved in an ongoing gang-related dispute with Luten, Alaniz said. When they followed up with Luten, he is alleged to have confirmed driving to the location around the time of the shooting with his two co-defendants, Rory D. Bruno Jr., 17, Silvis, and a 15-year-old whose identity has yet to be released. He said the two teens intended to sell drugs to someone there.
Alaniz said Luten's account was that when they got to the area, Luten stayed in the vehicle with a fourth person, a female, while the two teens got out. He testified he then heard gunfire and did not know what was happening. When the two teens got back in the vehicle, the four drove off.
The female occupant provided a statement similar to Luten's as to why they were there and what happened when they arrived. She said she was in the vehicle with Luten, Alaniz said.
Bruno did not talk to Alaniz, but the 15-year-old did, Alaniz told Fuhr on Tuesday. The teen gave a different account of why they were in the area.
He said Luten handed him a .357-caliber revolver and then the teen and another of the males — he was unclear with detectives whether it was Luten or Bruno — got out. The teen went to the south side of the house while the other person went to the west, and they began shooting.
When they got back to the car, the boy told detectives that Luten said, "That's how you do it."
Alaniz, who was questioned by defense attorney Dan Dalton, said the female occupant of the vehicle did not say anything about Luten handing anyone a gun in her account, but also she was not asked about it.
Alaniz said 9 mm casings were recovered from the west side of the residence and 9 mm bullets were found inside. Other spent bullets were recovered from the residence, and one was also removed from Fowler's body, but the caliber of those bullets were not yet available, the detective testified on Tuesday. No firearms had been recovered as of the time of his testimony.
Alaniz said that when Luten was interviewed, he said he was a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples but had recently left the group. The conflict authorities contend was occurring between him and other members had led to previous gunfire complaints.
In late December, the department confirmed the conflict between two rival factions of the gang, including several incidents involving gunfire. At that time, a department spokesman said investigators believed there was not an imminent threat to the community any longer, and one faction had been arrested as a result of Fowler's killing. Further arrests were possible, according to the spokesman.
Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee said Tuesday there had not been further arrests related to the incident.
Luten's next court date is scheduled for March 1, according to court records. The trial has been also tentatively set for March, but such early trial dates are often postponed as the court case develops.
Luten is also facing felony charges in two other cases, records state. These filings are the result of allegations of his conduct toward police after the investigation into the homicide started. Those charges are threatening a public official and aggravated fleeing and eluding.
His total bail in those cases is $130,000, and it is consecutive to the $2 million bail set in the murder case. To be released, he would have to post $213,000.
Luten is being held in the Rock Island County Jail.
The unnamed teen was still considered a juvenile as of Tuesday, McGehee said.
The names of juvenile defendants are frequently not released unless they are charged as adults.
That is what has happened to Bruno, whose initial trial date is scheduled for Feb. 19.
Though considered an adult in relation to the murder charge, Bruno is being held in juvenile custody at the Mary Davis Detention Home in Knox County, court records state. His bail has been set at $2 million with a $200,000 bond.