Original article no longer available
Battle Creek Enquirer
Sept 29, 2006
Trace Christenson, The Enquirer
Leroy McKinney appears on a television screen during his arraignment Thursday.
The man charged with smashing lottery machines Wednesday could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Leroy McKinney, 36, of Battle Creek is charged with seven counts, including vandalism, assault and fleeing from police.
But his sister, Kanika McKinney, said her brother has been undergoing treatment for depression and recently lost his job, perhaps factors in his actions.
“My brother is an educated Christian man whose roots stem from a very supportive, well-respected middle-class family,” said Kanika McKinney, 28, of Chicago. “Sadly, he’s also a man down on his luck and struggling to keep his head above drowning waters.”
McKinney was arrested after police in Battle Creek and Springfield said he walked into two convenience stores just after 8 a.m. Wednesday and used a baseball bat to smash lottery machines.
During his arraignment before Calhoun County District Court Magistrate Joe Brutsche on Thursday, McKinney said he didn’t understand the charges against him.
“I don’t agree with any of it,” he said to Brutsche after the first charges were read. “I don’t understand.”
Then after each charge was read, McKinney, who was arraigned from the Calhoun County jail using closed circuit television, said he didn’t understand the charges.
McKinney is charged with malicious destruction of property, assault with a dangerous weapon, two counts of fleeing from police and two counts of assault on a police officer after he smashed a lottery machine at Sunoco at 170 Capital Ave. S.W. in Battle Creek. He is charged with malicious destruction of property after police said he smashed two machines at Whitt’s Party Store at 286 N. 30th St. in Springfield. Both incidents occurred shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Witnesses told police a man walked into the stores and said nothing as he began smashing the machines. At the Sunoco station, he allegedly swung the bat at a customer. Then, he first refused to stop for Battle Creek officers who tried to stop him, police said.
Court records show that McKinney has convictions in 1999 for attempted carrying of a concealed weapon and aggravated stalking. Because of those charges, he is alleged to be a habitual offender.
Kanika McKinney said her brother was treated for two weeks about a year ago at Battle Creek Health System’s Fieldstone Center and has been undergoing counseling at Summit Point and taking medication for his depression.
“Yesterday was just a shock,” she said Thursday. “He has been doing well. He was working but recently lost his job, and I think that is what peaked his depression.”
She said her parents found several lottery tickets at his home Wednesday.
“He was not known to play the lottery,” she said, “but out of desperation he apparently was playing the lottery.
“Our family is totally distressed, and we are seeking to have him released to a facility because prison won’t help him.”
Another sister, Nicole McKinney of Detroit, said her brother was frustrated because he wasn’t hired for some jobs because of his previous criminal record.
“When he did get jobs they did not provide a living wage or health insurance, and a lack of medical insurance sometimes prevented or made it difficult for him to get the medical attention that he needed or the prescriptions necessary to treat his problem,” she said.
Assistant Prosecutor John Puzzuoli argued that because of the past convictions and the type of crime McKinney should be held on a cash bond.
Puzzuoli also said McKinney has a past history of mental health issues.
Brutsche set bond for McKinney at $35,000 in the Battle Creek case and $20,000 for the charges in Springfield.
A preliminary examination is scheduled for Oct. 10.
Trace Christenson covers crime and courts. He can be reached at 966-0685 or firstname.lastname@example.org.