Strasburg chase defendant led police to dealer

Devon Gray

A fleeing suspect who led police on a chase that resulted in an officer crashing his squad car in Strasburg later provided crucial information that pointed authorities toward a man considered to be the largest heroin dealer in Northern Virginia at the time.

The information Devon Renard Gray, 44, gave to authorities helped shorten the sentence he received Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, but he will still serve nine years in prison on three heroin distribution charges and a gun charge.

Gray’s sentence was the latest addition to a criminal saga that includes 22 prior convictions.

On the night of March 28, 2013, Cpl. Dan Minili of the Middletown police chased Gray from the center of the town and south on U.S. 11 through downtown Strasburg at speeds that reached up to 80 or 90 mph, court documents say.

Minili’s car veered right, went up an embankment and rolled over on its side on U.S. 11 on the south end of Strasburg. Gray abandoned his car a short distance away and fled on foot.

Court documents say Gray was arrested a few days later after an undercover agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gave him a handgun in exchange for a promise to provide the agent with $700 worth of heroin in the future.

Gray, who formerly lived at 447 Water St. in Woodstock, also sold heroin to a confidential police informant five times over a span of several weeks before the chase, authorities say.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Wolthuis painted a mixed picture of Gray in a court memorandum asking for a sentence of 10 years. Gray led law enforcement officials to Ronnie Jones, whom Gray identified as “the largest supplier of heroin in the area,” Wolthuis wrote.

“The information about Ronnie Jones was unknown to investigators at the time,” Wolthuis said. “Acting on that information, investigators were able to identify Jones and to begin a systematic investigation into Jones’ heroin distribution network.”

Wolthuis described Jones’ network as “the largest and most destructive” heroin ring in the area, an operation in which “hundreds of grams of heroin representing thousands of heroin doses were flooding the area on a weekly basis.”

Wolthuis said the investigation produced convictions for 13 members of the ring. Another defendant, described by Wolthuis as “one of the principal sources of all this heroin from New York,” has been brought to Virginia to stand trial in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.

Wolthuis’ sentencing memorandum also condemned Gray for a prior record filled with crimes of violence against authority and drug offenses.

Authorities have classified Gray as an armed career criminal, which, Wolthuis wrote, “is in effect the lifetime achievement award for armed criminals.”

Gray is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 15 in Frederick County on felony eluding of a police officer, a conviction stemming from the chase through Strasburg.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Robbins said a plea agreement in the case calls for Gray to receive a one-year sentence to be served at the same time as his federal sentence.

Robbins said he agreed to a concurrent sentence if the federal sentence exceeded five years.

Robbins said most of Gray’s chase was outside Frederick County. Robbins added that a video of the chase shown at the sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court made it clear that “some of his federal sentence was based on the same behavior I was prosecuting.”

“We felt anything over five years was fair considering it all arose out of the same set of facts,” Robbins said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com