And so were the people chasing him. From Cleveland, they were. There was a disagreement between the two transplanted groups, but law enforcement doesn’t know the nature of it. They have heard about everything from drugs to women to suspected homosexuality.
In the end, Lemroy Coleman ended up dead of a single gunshot to his chest at 1:17 a.m. on Oct. 8 and was found near the intersection of Lane E and Lane 11 between 14th and 15th streets in East Wheeling. Det. Greg McKenzie reported that the 33-year-old Coleman was not shot within the alley where his body was found.
There was no chalked “corpse” outline and there was no blood.
The black male’s last known address was in Cleveland, and at the time of his death, Coleman was wanted in Ohio County after being indicted in May on two counts of delivery of cocaine.
McKenzie said police believe Dallas Michael Acoff, a 26-year-old Cleveland native who has lived in Wheeling for several months, is the murderer. Acoff, who police believe is also guilty of shooting the second victim in the leg, was arrested on July 3rd in Wheeling after he was found to be in the possession of cocaine and marijuana. He also was charged with eluding, obstructing, and driving without a valid operator’s license.
“We are not 100 percent sure if Acoff is still in this area or if he has returned to the Cleveland area, but the Cleveland authorities are well aware that we are searching for these people,” McKenzie said. “It is quite possible that Acoff and the others with warrants for their arrests are still here, and I wouldn’t be surprised that we find him in this area.
“Acoff and the others are now in the system, so if any of them come into contact with law enforcement and they run their names, they’ll be wearing handcuffs very quickly,” he continued. “I really don’t care where they are as long as we get them off the streets.”
One arrest has taken place, and ultimately that occurred because the suspect walked into the police headquarters with his girlfriend the day after the murder.
“Mr. Michael Angelo Johnson was arrested at Wheeling Police Headquarters,” McKenzie said. “He was there for a different reason, and when he came there, he had no idea that he was a person of interest in this murder investigation. I would say he was somewhat surprised, but he knows he was involved.”
Issues between these two groups of men started in Steubenville four days before the Wheeling shooting, according to McKenzie, and then they encountered each other again at the American Legion Post 89 on the corner of 15th and Jacob streets on the evening of Oct. 8. The two groups remained inside the establishment only long enough to make eye contact.
“This was not a random shooting. These guys definitely knew each other,” he explained. “In no way, shape, or form was this random. Both parties were in the American Legion in 15th Street but they were not in that bar for long after the second group walked in. It was very, very brief. It might have only been a few seconds, in fact.
“We do not know which party was there first,” he continued. “But we have obtained some surveillance video inside and outside of the Legion. The city also maintains a camera on the corner of 15th and Jacob, and we have video from that camera as well. The entire incident was pretty much recorded.”
A warrant for aiding and abetting in this murder has been issued for Rocco Pasquale Pandoli, a 27-year-old Cleveland native who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 185 pounds. He has black hair, brown eyes, and tattoos on his arms and chest. He should be considered armed and dangerous.
Investigators discovered more than 10 shell casings on 15th Street and along the north sidewalk, too, and McKenzie confirmed that more than one gun was fired during this deadly night.
“But what we haven’t been able to determine yet is a motive,” the detective said. “We have received a lot of speculative information but nothing concrete. It has been difficult to pinpoint what they were arguing and fighting about. We have been told about many possibilities, so at this time we’re not able to confirm what this was all about.”
“We understand only one vehicle was involved. We have two victims, one deceased; we have one suspect in custody; and we are looking for another suspect,” McKenzie continued. “We have one murder warrant and two warrants for adding and abetting, and we hope to have the autopsy report by the beginning of next week.”
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According to Wheeling crime statistics from the first half of 2015, four out of every 10 people arrested by Wheeling police officers are non-Wheeling residents. In this case, McKenzie said, only short-term city residents were involved.
“The people we are looking for have lived in the Upper Ohio Valley, but they all have roots in the Cleveland area, and law enforcement agencies in this area are familiar with all of them,” he said. “And that is why we hope we receive more calls from the public because we know people know these guys.
“I know there are people out there who have information, and I know that some of those people will not come forward because of fear,” he said. “But it’s our job to ask people to talk to us. We’re going to make this city safer, so it’s important that we operate from the best information possible.”
Several East Wheeling residents, the detective said, have volunteered both eyewitness accounts and pertinent information, and that has allowed for the investigation to move along quickly.
“We are definitely going in the right direction, we believe. Of course we always want more information, but the public has responded, and the public is helping us,” McKenzie said. “But we also know that there are more people out there who know more, and we would like for those people to come forward too.
“The crime scene is basically two blocks long, and there were multiple shots fired from handguns of two different calibers,” he said. “We are moving quickly, but we are also taking our time because no one wants to overlook anything. We need to get what we need to get.”
Not only have local residents provided intelligence, but so has the injured victim.
“We’re still getting cooperation, and we’re still getting new pieces of information on a daily basis, and the victim who survived the gun wound in the leg has spoken with us a few times,” McKenzie said. “The suspect that was arrested and lodged in the Northern Regional Jail has not spoken with us at this time.
“We’re a lot closer to a conclusion going into this weekend, but we’re not there yet. We’ll get there, though, and that’s because of our patrol guys, our investigations unit, the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force, and the West Virginia State Police,” he continued. “We’ve all worked together, and that’s allowed for a quick turnaround so far. We will get to where we need to be.”
There are questions McKenzie refuses to answer at this time so as not to impede this ongoing investigation. Those questions include the following:
Who is the surviving victim?
Was evidence of drug use or drug-trafficking found on the decreased victim or the injured victim?
What were the calibers of the guns fired during this criminal activity?
Did Angela Johnson admit to involvement with this murder at the time of his arrest?
What was the exact location where Coleman’s body was found?
What was the evidence discovered near the City-County Building?
“Informing the public is a priority of the Wheeling Police Department, but when you have an ongoing investigation, it is necessary at times to keep some things close to our chest,” the detective said. “When everyone who should be arrested is in custody, the details of this case will be released.
“We’re doing the work that needs to get done so we can wrap this up as quickly as possible so our residents know that they are off the streets and behind bars,” McKenzie continued. “That’s important to everyone, and we know that.”
What McKenzie hopes local residents realize is that this murder took place in reality and not on a television show, and that’s because huge differences exist between the two.
“The crime shows on TV always have a crime lab right next to the police department, but that’s not our reality here in Wheeling. On those show the officers can analyze their evidence immediately, but we have to send the evidence that we collect to a crime lab in Charleston,” he explained. “People must understand that the state of West Virginia has one crime lab, and they are very busy.
“Sometimes we get the information on the evidence returned to us in a couple of weeks, and sometimes we do not get results back for a month or two,” McKenzie added. “In high-profile cases like this one we get the results sooner than later, so we are hoping we’ll receive the results in this case in the very near future.”
Anyone able to assist the Wheeling Police Department with this investigation should call 304-234-3661.
(Photos by Steve Novotney; images provided by the Wheeling Police Department)