Defendant Sentenced for the First Degree Murder of a Man on a Bicycle
A Tulsa man was sentenced Thursday for shooting and killing a bicyclist in order to impress members of a street gang, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson.
Chief U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III sentenced Devon Blevins, 29, of Tulsa, to life in federal prison.
“Devon Blevins took the life of Maurice Burgess in an effort to gain membership into a street gang,” said U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “Today’s life sentence reflects this defendant’s callous disregard for life and reaffirms the resolve of prosecutors and law enforcement to hold violent criminals accountable for their actions.”
“Thanks to a determined investigation by the FBI and our law enforcement partners, this senseless act of violence will not go unpunished,” said FBI Oklahoma City Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Gray. “We hope today’s sentence provides some solace to the family of Maurice Burgess, and reminds the public of our commitment to eliminating the threat of gang violence.”
On Sept. 22, 2021, a federal jury found Blevins guilty of first-degree murder in Indian Country and causing death by using and discharging a firearm during the commission of first degree murder.
Blevin’s codefendant, Jacob Bruce Banks, 22, was the driver of the car, and on Sept. 17, 2021, he pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to first degree murder in Indian Country. The two defendants were involved with the Savage Boys street gang and did not know the victim.
On April 12, 2021, just after 8 pm, officers were notified of a shooting that occurred in the parking lot of the Waterstone Apartments near South Peoria Avenue. Officers discovered the victim, Maurice Burgess, on the ground near a bicycle with apparent gunshot wounds. No weapon was found on or near the victim.
Several witnesses stated that shortly after the shooting, they observed a red 4-door Nissan Altima depart from the parking lot and head toward 61st Street and South Peoria Avenue. Detectives reviewed surveillance footage from the area and observed a red Nissan Altima with distinct damage on the front passenger-side bumper. Surveillance video also showed the car trailing the victim, the victim falling from his bicycle, and a figure positioned in the car’s window.
Later, on April 17, 2021, a Tulsa police officer received information regarding the discharge of a firearm in public. During his investigation, the officer conducted a traffic stop on a red Nissan Altima after it failed to stop at a stop sign. As the officer approached the vehicle, he observed a rifle in the passenger seat of the vehicle and codefendant Jacob Banks in the driver’s seat. The officer then arrested Banks for possessing a deadly weapon and for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Detectives requested the officer examine the damage to the car, and it was determined to be consistent with the damage observed on the car seen in video surveillance from April 12, 2021, when Mr. Burgess was killed.
Codefendant Banks testified in court that on the day of the crime, both men were armed. Blevins told him there was a silver vehicle following people and directed Banks to drive in the area to look for the silver vehicle. Instead, the defendants saw an African American male on a bicycle ahead of them closest to the driver’s side of the car. Banks stated that Blevins propped himself up, sitting on the ledge of an open front passenger window, and fired multiple times across the hood of the vehicle hitting the man. Banks quickly drove away from the scene.
In an April 20, 2021, interview with police, Blevins admitted he was responsible for the shooting but stated that the man on the bicycle had reached for his waist area, and Blevins thought he may have been reaching for a handgun. Blevins stated that he positioned himself on the car’s open window ledge then shot the victim twice. During the interview, he also told detectives that he recently joined the Savage Boys and that during the shooting he “didn’t want these guys thinking my loyalty wasn’t with them.” He said he wanted the shooting to “look good” so that Banks would give him the “okay” to be admitted into the gang. Blevins chose not to testify at trial.
During closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Heatherman, lead prosecutor in the case, called it a senseless murder caught on surveillance tape. He and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Harder recounted the evidence offered at trial and contended that Blevins committed a murder to show his loyalty to the Savage Boys.
The prosecutors argued that Blevins was looking for trouble that day. They explained that as the victim rode his bicycle in the parking lot ahead of the Nissan, the defendant pulled himself halfway out of the window- taking a tactical position, switched off the American Heritage six shooter’s safety, pulled the hammer back, laid his elbows across the car to steady his aim, and shot the victim, striking him in the throat. He pulled the hammer back again and shot the victim a second time. He pulled the trigger a third time, but the revolver misfired. He then fled the scene with Banks and disposed of the weapon. They reminded the jury that these are not the actions of an individual who acted in self defense.
The jury returned guilty verdicts two hours later.
The Tulsa Police Department and FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan H. Heatherman and Michael F. Harder prosecuted the case.