Promethazine was motive in deadly Madera pharmacy shooting

January 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Madera police say they now know the motive for a deadly pharmacy shooting, after arresting a second suspect in the case.

Detectives found Jonte Harris at a home in Fresno Thursday night. They discovered he was shot twice in the leg by the pharmacy owner. The owner also killed another suspect, and police are still searching for the get-away driver.

Madera police say it appears that a prescription cough syrup motivated the deadly shooting inside the Almond Avenue Pharmacy Tuesday night. Detectives made that discovery after arresting 27-year-old Jonte Harris at a home in Fresno Wednesday night.

"According to Mr. Harris, the intent was to rob the establishment," Madera Police Chief Steve Frazier said. "They were looking for promethazine."

The pharmacy owner, Bryan Lee, did not want to comment on camera but says he's shocked the suspects nearly killed him and his mother for the medicine. The cough syrup is abused by people who mix it with clear soda to create a purple drink. Investigators say Harris claims he didn't know it would lead to a gunfight.

"Mr. Harris did express to us some surprise that when they entered that his partner began shooting," Chief Steve Frazier said. "Apparently they didn't discuss things before going in, and he said that as soon as we came in, he started firing, the store owner started firing back, and his intent was to get the heck out of the store."

One of the bullets hit Sophia Lee in the leg. Her son says he then fired five founds, hitting Harris twice in the leg and the other suspect, Aquilla Bailey -- in the face, torso, and leg. Bailey later died at the hospital.

District Attorney Michael Keitz says in cases like this, it's possible to charge one robber with the murder of the other. He said, "They can be liable for initiating the gun battle, and then if someone in fact was killed they could be criminally liable for murder."

Action News has learned the two suspects have a long criminal history together. They were co-defendants in 2008 and 2006 and were convicted of receiving stolen property in both cases. Now it appears Harris will be heading to court again soon.

"I have a prosecutor and two investigators also working with the Madera Police Department right now to help wrap up and further investigate the case," Keitz said. "So we're rapidly pursuing it."