Questions linger on injured mailman's criminal past

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Questions continue to surround the criminal background and hiring of a mailman who informants told police was acting as a drug courier before he was shot.

In federal court Monday February 22, suspicions of a missing package of illegal drugs appeared to be the motive behind the shooting of Da’Ron Lester and carried out by a pair of brothers with gang connections, according to an affidavit filed by U.S. Postal Inspector Adel Valdes.

During an afternoon arraignment, Assistant United States Attorney Scott Davis laid out the federal case against Marcus F. Bennett, who the records identified as a member of the Victory Park Crips.

Not long after the shooting, postal inspectors received a pair of tips which said Lester delivered packages containing illegal drugs and that he failed to make a recent delivery.

The day after the February 10 shooting, a tip to postal inspectors not only identified Bennett by his street name, "Miz", as the shooter, but corroborated the previous tip.

"The same caller further informed inspectors that Miz was supposed to receive a narcotics package in the mail the day of the shooting but Da'Ron kept it," Valdes wrote, adding, "It should be noted at the time the call was received, the carrier's name had not been released to the general public.

Valdes said investigators found a phone number for someone named "Miz" in the contact list on Lester's phone.

The affidavit revealed Lester has prior misdemeanor and felony convictions for cocaine and marijuana possession between 2007 and 2010.

Valdes directed questions about Lester’s employment to a USPS spokesperson.

Applicants are required to disclose misdemeanor and felony convictions, and the USPS determines whether or not someone with a criminal conviction is employable on an individual basis, according to the background checks section of the USPS application website.

“The Postal service recognizes that many persons with criminal records have demonstrated successful rehabilitation and are capable of performing the duties of postal jobs,” the site reads.

Meanwhile, a federal staff member who specializes in the employment of federal employees said the Office of Personnel Management performs background checks for federal agencies and it’s up to the agency to grant the applicant a security clearance and determine the applicant’s suitability for employment. The staffer said OPM conducts some investigations for USPS, but USPS decides what checks are done and how to use the information.

USPS Spokesperson Susan Wright would only confirm Lester was hired in July 2014. She declined to answer questions on Lester’s hiring, whether he disclosed his convictions or OPM’s role in the application process.

During the shooting investigation, Lester told investigators he had been approached by Marcus Bennett, who asked Lester to help with the delivery of drug packages, the affidavit said. It went on to say Lester recalled Bennett approaching him two weeks before the shooting to ask about a package that went missing, which Lester replied he knew nothing about the package.

"Lester advised the conversation ended with Marcus telling Lester, 'Stay safe.'"

Lester, the affidavit said, positively identified both brothers from separate photo lineups.

On February 16, Louisville Metro Police charged Eric Bennett with attempted murder in connection to the case. At this point, Eric Bennett was only facing charges in Jefferson County District Court.

According to his arrest report, it was anticipated the U.S. Attorney's Office would try to obtain a superseding indictment in federal court. His name was listed on a federal criminal complaint.

Alex Dathorne, who Marcus Bennett identified as an attorney he had reached out to, denied having been retained as Bennett’s lawyer as of February 23.

Marcus Bennett is charged with assaulting a federal employee and firing a gun during the commission of a felony. He could spend up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the first charge and 10 years to life in prison on the latter charge. The convictions would have to be served consecutively, Davis said in court.

He is scheduled to return to federal court Wednesday, February 24 for a preliminary and probable cause hearing.

Eric Bennet is scheduled to return to Jefferson County District court Friday, February 26 for a preliminary hearing.

Lester has not been charged with a crime.

This story will be updated as information develops.

 


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