Police Found Man Accused of Crashing into Scheels Asleep in the Firearms Section

By Vanessa Miller, Reporter

CORALVILLE, Iowa - After Joseph Albert Moreno, 23, rammed his Ford Explorer through the front entrance of Scheels All Sports on Dec. 29, he ransacked the firearms section of the store and then passed out in an aisle, according to authorities.

Search warrant documents made public this week indicate that when officers entered Scheels in the Coral Ridge Mall looking for the person who had driven through the entrance, they discovered Moreno asleep in an aisle on the second floor.

They also found a 9 mm handgun that they believe he brought into the store on the floor in the firearm section along with an empty 9 mm magazine on a step of the escalator, according to the search warrant applications.

A 9 mm casing was located on the floor behind the Explorer and another casing was found after officers opened the front passenger door, officers reported. There were four bullet holes in the windshield of the 2002 Explorer, and officers said they believe the gun was fired from within the vehicle.

Coralville police initially responded to a burglar alarm at Scheels at 2:32 a.m. and found the Explorer had smashed through the glass entrance and come to rest near an escalator, according to the warrant applications.

As they were standing near the entrance upon arrival, they heard a gunshot and observed the motion detectors had been activated, indicating someone was inside, according to authorities.

Officers with the Emergency Response Team were called in, and they arrested Moreno at 8:54 a.m. after finding him unconscious on the floor, the warrant applications indicate.

In a follow up interview with investigators, Moreno said he had consumed an unknown quantity of Black Velvet whiskey earlier in the evening at his Iowa City residence, according to the documents. When he tried to leave, his roommate attempted to convince him to stay, making him angry and prompting him to get his 9 mm handgun, police reported.

He told officers that he fired the gun once into the hallway to "show force" and intimidate his roommate, the documents say. He then left his home in his Explorer and told investigators that he doesn't recall where he went and doesn't remember entering Scheels.

Moreno told investigators that he doesn't remember what he did in Scheels, but officers found shotguns, rifles and ammunition thrown about the second floor of the store, according to the documents.

Officers believe Moreno fired his handgun until the magazine was empty while he was in the Scheels.

During an interview with investigators, Moreno's roommate, identified as Phani M. Medler, corroborated the story that Moreno was drinking alcohol and became upset when he was urged not to leave the apartment, according to court documents.

Medler told police that Moreno fired his gun more than once, but fewer than 10 times. According to the warrant applications, Medler chose not to call police because he and Moreno are friends. Instead, he cleaned up the spent shell casings and then drove around looking for Moreno.

In addition to ammunition and firearms, investigators collected computer and cell phone evidence from the pair's apartment, according to search warrant returns.

Moreno, who previously was listed as a University of Iowa student in the online directory, faces numerous charges including first-degree burglary, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, both felonies, reckless use of a firearm, carrying weapons and operating while intoxicated.

He posted nearly $100,000 for bond through a bail bondsman to get out of the Johnson County Jail.

Moreno is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.
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