Gun-shop break-in in Durham County could be part of East Coast illegal firearms network

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Durham leaders gathered together for a press conference to address the increase in violent crime in the recent weeks, including the death of 9-year-old Z-yon Person four days prior, at the Durham Police Headquarters on Thursday, Aug. 22.

A break-in at rural gun shop in northern Durham County could be part of an organized effort to distribute stolen firearms across North Carolina and Virginia, according to recently released search warrants.

On July 22, sheriff’s deputies responded to Drye’s Gun Shop after the owner reported someone had tried to break into his Bahama Road store at 2:50 a.m.

The store had been targeted twice before: a break-in and and attempted break-in the prior two months, according to the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.

The owner had installed surveillance cameras that sent text alerts July 22 after detecting movement on the property. One warrant indicates there were two men; another says three.

The warrants, sought by Deputy C.A. Reiman, and Detective D.C. Bermel, successfully asked to search homes and cell phones of two men.

Danny Drye, the gun shop’s owner, declined to comment Friday.

When deputies arrived the morning of July 22, a neighbor said the men had fled on foot but left their car, a 2011 Volkswagon Jetta.

Around 7:14 a.m. Drye saw a man walking near were the car was parked before it was seized by the Sheriff’s Office, the warrants state.

The man, later identified as Aaron Bert Ramsey, 25, admitted trying to break into the gun shop earlier that morning with someone, the warrant states.

Ramsey told deputies he was approached by a man he knew as “Trey,” who offered him $500 to drive during the break-in.

Trey said he’d broken into the shop before, Ramsey told deputies, the warrant states.

Ramsey, who denied involvement in the prior incidents at the Bahama store, told deputies he believed Trey was involved in multiple gun-store break-ins.

Illegal firearms network

Numerous break-ins have been reported at firearm dealerships and stores throughout North Carolina and Virginia, including in Apex, Durham, Greensboro, Mooresville and Raleigh throughout the past year, the warrant states.

“I believe that these incidents are related and part of a larger nexus of distributors of illegal firearms,” Bermel states in the warrant. “I believe these diverse and geographic locations are further indicators that an organized distribution network exists.”

Thirty guns were stolen during a June 11 break-in at Drye’s Gun Shop, according to the warrants. Firearms taken during that break-in have been found in Raleigh and Suffolk County, New York, the warrant states.

A 2016 survey of prisoners found 1 in 5 said they carried a firearm when they committed the crime for which they were imprisoned, according to a 2019 U.S. Department of Justice special report.

Of the roughly 287,400 prisoners who possessed a firearm about 43% had obtained it off the street or from an underground market and 25% obtained it from a family member, the report said.

About 7% found it at the scene of the crime and 6% had stolen it.

Trayvvon Brandon

After interviewing Ramsey, deputies later charged Treyvon Brandon, 22., with attempted breaking and entering in the July 22 incident.

A $2,500 secured bail was set by a magistrate, and he was released the same day he was charged, according to AnnMarie Breen, a spokesperson with the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office has since connected Brandon to the June 11 break-in at Drye’s and charged him with three counts of felony conspiracy, two counts of felony attempted breaking and entering, three counts of injury to personal property, one count breaking and entering and 30 counts of larceny of a firearm.

Brandon hadn’t been arrested on those charges as of Monday morning.

Ramsey has been charged with felony conspiracy, attempting to break-in a building and injury to personal property associated with the July 22 break-in.

He is currently in jail serving a 120-day sentence related to previous charges.

Ramsey is also charged with breaking and entering a Guns, Gear & Ammo store in Cascade, Virginia, on July 21, according to court documents. He remains in jail as no bail has been set on that charge, according to the Durham County jail website. He is still in the process of being extradited to Virginia, Breen wrote.

Investigators are also still seeking to identify any additional suspects in these incidents, Breen wrote.

Anyone with information on these crimes or Brandon’s whereabouts should contact the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at 919-560-0880, or the tipline at 919-560-7151 or Durham Crimestoppers at 919-683-1200.

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Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.