Hurricane Irma brought together 68-year-old William Reiss and 18-year-old Gerjuan Jackson, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. That relationship ended with Reiss’ Jan. 3 murder, for which Jackson was arrested on Tuesday.
Jackson, of Mobile, Alabama, met Reiss — and learned of his gun collection — while working in Polk City as a licensed FEMA contractor doing damage estimates in September after Irma hit. Detectives say they found Jackson’s official FEMA contractor’s identification during the investigation.
“Oh my God. Oh my God. This guy was in our house!” one of Reiss’ neighbors told WFLA-Channel 8 she yelled to her husband upon seeing Jackson’s mugshot on television.
The woman told the station that Jackson asked about things like the local crime rate and number of guns she had in her house.
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Reiss had enough guns and got along well enough with Jackson that he sold two to the teenager in September. When Jackson went back home, he lost them during a bust for marijuana possession and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
But, police say, Jackson planned to replace those guns and then some by returning to Reiss’ house with 22-year-old pals Kenley Campbell and Darril Rankin. The three drove the seven hours from Mobile to Polk City in Campbell’s Chevrolet Sonic on Jan. 3.
The Polk Sheriff’s Office says Jackson admitted to entering Reiss’ home and shooting Reiss and his 57-year-old roommate Kenneth Maier, who died from his wounds Friday, while Campbell and Rankin waited in the car. Then, Campbell and Rankin helped load 20 to 25 firearms and a flat screen TV into Campbell’s trunk and Reiss’ truck.
They drove the Sonic and Reiss’ truck back to Alabama, where they torched the truck in the woods. The sheriff’s office says Jackson admitted the television and the stolen guns had been sold on the streets except for the three guns detectives found in Campbell and Rankin’s home.
Jackson, Campbell and Rankin have been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, armed burglary with assault and battery, armed robbery, grand theft auto, conveyance burglary, and 13 counts of grand theft of a firearm.
FEMA told WFLA that inspection services are handled by subcontractors, not FEMA employees.
“Currently, FEMA contracts with two private sector companies for disaster survivor home inspections,” FEMA said in a statement. “Questions about individuals employed within those contracted companies, or those companies’ hiring practices, must be pursued through their individual contractors.”