GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of killing a Wyoming gas station clerk was arraigned Tuesday on charges connected to a separate shooting that wounded a woman.
In a courtroom in downtown Grand Rapids, 33-year-old Willie Bryant Jr. was charged with assault with intent to commit murder and felony firearm as a fourth-time habitual offender.
“I feel like you should give me a bond, man, because they don’t have no evidence against me. All they got is accusations, bro — I mean, your honor,” Bryant said in court. “They never caught me with no gun or none of that.”
“All right, sir, I’m going to caution you once again,” 61st District Court Judge Michael Distel replied. “I want to make sure you understand your right to remain silent.”
The judge ultimately denied bond, which means Bryant will stay behind bars as the cases against him progress.
THREE SHOOTINGS, ONE DEADLY
The charges on which he was arraigned Tuesday stem from a shooting outside a home on Thomas Avenue SE east of Eastern Avenue in Grand Rapids’ Baxter neighborhood.
In that incident, Bryant allegedly shot 55-year-old Annette Vaught. She remained in critical condition Tuesday, but her family said she was doing well. She is expected to be OK.
Grand Rapids police said the shooting was the result of an argument between neighbors. Bryant’s father told 24 Hour News 8 Monday that his son’s ex-girlfriend was in a disagreement with the victim.
Bryant is also accused of shooting and killing 48-year-old mother of four Shannon Schoen at the gas station where she worked around 6 a.m. Monday. About 15 hours later, Bryant was arrested without incident as he waited to order at a McDonald’s along Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile.
Wyoming police said they are investigating an armed robbery attempt as part of the deadly shooting. They said there was no known connection between Schoen and Bryant.
The Grand Rapids Police Department also now think he was involved in a third shooting that happened around 2:30 a.m. Saturday along Thomas Street, not far from where Vaught would be shot the next day.
Police previously said that shooting also stemmed from an argument, but a witness told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday that Bryant walked up to a couple and shot them multiple times in an attempted robbery.
The victims, a man and woman in their 50s, remained hospitalized Tuesday with injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
GRPD SOUGHT BRYANT BEFORE MURDER
Witnesses told police Sunday afternoon that Bryant was the man who shot Vaught and that they also thought he shot the two people the night before.
“Any time that we have a lead — or suspect, in this case — our priority is to get them into custody as soon as possible,” GRPD Sgt. Cathy Williams said.
She said detectives checked out his associates and made calls trying to track him down after identifying him as a suspect Sunday.
“We were in contact with the family members,” she added.
They couldn’t find him.
“The sooner we can get someone into custody, the better, but really we are limited by legal guidelines and the human aspect,” Williams said.
Asked if she thought Bryant may be responsible for more shootings, Williams replied, “I have no idea.”
“At this point, our investigation does not pinpoint any other shootings, but based on his three days of activity, I’m not going to put any limit on what he’s potentially capable of doing,” she continued.
Michigan State Police records show he has a criminal history that dates back to 2004 and includes drug, assault and theft-related charges.
Police say they hope Bryant’s arrest encourages any other victims or potential witnesses to come forward.
SUSPECT’S DAD: IF HE DID IT, ‘HE NEEDS TO MAN UP’
The suspect’s father Willie Bryant Sr. said Tuesday the last couple of days had been “devastating.”
“I never would have thought in a million years that my son would be caught up in something like this,” Bryant Sr. said outside the courtroom where his son was arraigned. “He was a 4.0 grade point average in school. Never would’ve thought it.”
He said he spoke to his son Sunday evening after the shooting that wounded Vaught.
“He said he had got in an altercation,” he said. “He didn’t tell me he had shot her.”
He said he didn’t know what the argument was about.
“From what I know from talking to him, he said she just went off,” he said.
He said it’s hard to believe his son could have shot women.
“My heart goes out to them. My would go out to anybody. I’m sorry. If my son had anything to do with that, I’m very sorry,” he said.
“If he did do that, then he needs to man up,” he added.
WHITE CADILLAC AND CHARGES AGAINST COUSIN
Authorities say he got away from the gas station as a passenger in a white Cadillac. There was also a white Cadillac parked on Franklin Street SE near Eastern Avenue Monday near a home where police spent nearly seven hours because they thought Bryant may be inside. That white Cadillac is registered to a Gary Bryant.
Gary Bryant, 58, was arrested by Wyoming police and booked into the Kent County jail Monday. Online MSP records show he’s being held on a felony homicide charge, but Wyoming police tell 24 Hour News 8 he is not believed to have been a shooter.
Gary Bryant is Willie Bryant Jr.’s cousin. MSP records show Gary Bryant has a criminal record dating back to 1980 that includes, among other things, convictions for sexual assault, assault; larceny, home invasion and receiving stolen property; and possession of narcotics.
Both men are expected in court as soon as Wednesday to be charged in connection to the gas station homicide. Additionally, Willie Bryant Jr. is expected back in court on the Thomas Street shooting case for a probable cause conference on June 5 and then for a preliminary exam on June 12.
Police are still looking for a second apparent accomplice in the gas station shooting. That man remained unidentified Tuesday. Anyone with information about the accomplice is asked to call Wyoming police at 616.530.7300 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
—24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.