G. F. Peterman, III, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces that Steven Maurice McKinley, age 23, of Athens, Georgia, was sentenced today to serve twenty-five years in Federal prison for his attempt to kill an undercover United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent (hereinafter “the agent”) on September 30, 2014. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable C. Ashley Royal, Senior United States District Court Judge, in Athens, Georgia. McKinley previously entered a plea of guilty on August 12, 2016, to a Superseding Indictment charging him with Attempt to Kill a Federal Officer and Discharging a Firearm During and in Relation to a Federal Crime of Violence.
Had this case gone to trial, the evidence presented by the United States would have shown that in September 2014, the ATF conducted an operation utilizing undercover agents to target the illegal sale of firearms and narcotics in Athens, Georgia. During the course of this undercover operation, the agent agreed to purchase an AK 47 or SKS style assault rifle and a quantity of marijuana from McKinley for $800.00 in cash. Defendant McKinley directed the agent to a convenience store parking lot to complete the transaction. When the agent arrived, McKinley persuaded the agent to pull the undercover vehicle down a nearby dirt road adjacent to the convenience store.
Shortly after the agent stopped the undercover vehicle, Javonta Terrell Darden, carrying a duffel bag, appeared on foot and accompanied McKinley and the agent to a small wooded area. Darden then dropped the duffel bag which was supposed to contain the firearm and marijuana that the agent was going to purchase for $800. Instead, the duffel bag contained only sticks and several pieces of wood because, as the agent then realized, McKinley and Darden intended to rob the agent at gunpoint of the $800 in cash as well as the contents of the agent’s vehicle.
After Darden dropped the bag, he produced a silver colored .25 caliber handgun, racked the slide and, pointing it at the agent ordered the agent to get on the ground. Once the agent was on the ground, McKinley took $400.00 from the agent’s front pocket. McKinley then returned to the agent’s vehicle, rummaged through the interior console, and removed items from inside. During the course of the armed robbery, Darden instructed McKinley to “get it all,” while Darden held the agent at gunpoint.
At this time, the agent was able to draw a Glock 27, .40 caliber service handgun, and fire several shots at Darden. While the agent was shooting, Darden, wounded, closed the gap and made physical contact with the agent, struggling with him until Darden expired. A later forensic analysis of the firearm used by Darden revealed a primer strike on the chambered round, indicating that Darden had pulled the trigger but his weapon failed to fire.
McKinley, who was rummaging through the agent’s vehicle when the shots rang out, attacked the agent. During the course of this assault, McKinley struck the agent on the head with the agent’s service weapon and ultimately gained positive control of the agent’s firearm. The agent attempted to flee from the area by running away from McKinley in the direction of the convenience store. As the agent fled, McKinley took aim and shot him in the back, with the bullet entering the back side of the agent’s right shoulder, fragmenting as it traveled through his body and lodging in the agent’s jaw, breaking the jaw as it did so.
As a part of his plea agreement, McKinley admitted that on September 30, 2014, he and his accomplice, Darden, agreed to meet with the agent for the purported purpose of selling a firearm and a quantity of marijuana for $800 when, in reality, he and Darden had conspired to rob the agent at gunpoint. As part of the robbery McKinley admitted firing the agent’s service weapon at the agent in an attempt to kill the agent while the agent was engaged in and on account of the performance of the agent’s official duties.
Said United States Attorney Peterman, “It is only through bravery, perseverance and extremely good luck that the agent Mr. McKinley tried to kill is alive and has recovered after being shot in the back while unarmed and posing no threat whatsoever. As despicable as were Mr. McKinley’s actions that night, those of the agent in this case stand as a reminder of the courage and dedication of our law enforcement professionals, who unflinchingly face such perils every day yet unflaggingly continue to carry out their duty to serve and protect our communities.”
“Today’s sentence is a direct message to criminals that law enforcement is observant and it will not tolerate violent crime. Steven McKinley showed a complete and utter disregard for human life when he attempted to murder a federal agent,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Schmidt. “As an agency and unified law enforcement community, we will not tolerate armed violent individuals continually terrorizing our neighborhoods and reducing the quality of life.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Athens and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Danial E. Bennett and Tamara A. Jarrett prosecuted the case for the Government.
Questions concerning this case should be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603.