FEMA contractor returned to Florida but not for hurricane-related work. Instead, one man is dead, sheriff says

Katrina Urso, William Reiss’ daughter, speaks during Wednesday’s Polk County Sheriff’s Office news conference.
Katrina Urso, William Reiss’ daughter, speaks during Wednesday’s Polk County Sheriff’s Office news conference. Spectrum Bay News 9

Three Alabama men – a FEMA contractor and two friends – have been arrested in connection with a murder, assault and robbery in Polk City.

Gerjuan Demarcus Jackson, 18, Kenley Campbell, 22, and Darril Lamar Rankin Jr., 22, all of Mobile, Alabama, are facing first-degree murder and several other felony charges.

The trio, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, drove from Mobile to William Reiss’ home in Polk City on Jan. 3, when Reiss was shot and killed and another man was seriously injured.

Jackson had previously met Reiss while working as an official contractor for FEMA in 2017 estimating damage after Hurricane Irma, according to the sheriff’s office. He also bought two handguns from Reiss that were worth an estimated $800, according to WFLA News Channel 8.

William Reiss

It was about two weeks later he returned with two men, Spectrum Bay News 9 reported.

On Jan. 3, Campbell drove his Chevrolet Sonic with Jackson and Rankin to Reiss’ home in the 7400 block of Berkley Road. Jackson went inside while Campbell and Rankin waited in the car.

Jackson admitted to firing several shots at Reiss and another man inside the home before going outside, according to the sheriff’s office. Bay News 9 reports Reiss was shot in the head four times and another man remains in a hospital fighting for his life.

When Jackson walked out, Campbell and Rankin helped load pieces of Reiss’ firearm collection and a flat-screen television into the car, stole Reiss’ pick-up truck and drove back to Alabama. Jackson later told investigators they took approximately 25 guns from the home, which were sold “on the streets” along with the television.

Gerjuan Demarcus Jackson

Previously released surveillance footage from the sheriff’s office showed the Sonic and the stolen pickup truck driving near the scene shortly after the incident occurred.

Jackson took Reiss’ truck into the woods and set it on fire.

Kenley Campbell

Working with local law enforcement in Alabama, officials determined the Sonic belonged to Campbell and located Rankin. Both men confessed and pointed to Jackson as the person who pulled the trigger, WFLA reported.

Officials searched Campbell and Rankin’s home and found six firearms – three of which belonged to Reiss’ collection, extensive amounts of ammunition, electronic devices and the clothes authorities believe the men wore during the incident, according to the sheriff’s office.

Darril Lamar Rankin Jr.

Campbell, Rankin and Jackson are in custody at the Mobile County Metro jail and will be extradited to Polk County. They face charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, armed burglary with assault/battery, 13 counts of grand theft with a firearm, robbery with a firearm/deadly weapon, conveyance burglary and grand theft of a motor vehicle.

The sheriff’s office noted that all three men have prior arrests.

Reiss’ daughter, Katrina Urso, told Bay News 9 the new information in her father’s case has given her some comfort.

“To be honest, it makes more sense,” Urso said. “Because, I’m like, he’s a smart man. He’s not just going to let anyone in his house. He’s not going to let a stranger ... ‘Here, come look at my guns.’ He wouldn’t do that. So, it kind’ve makes me feel a little better to know that piece of the puzzle, it wasn’t him.”

FEMA issued the following statement to multiple news outlets on the incident: “FEMA is aware of an alleged incident that occurred in Polk County, Florida, and are looking into additional details on this matter. Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims.”

FEMA’s Inspection Services are handled by contracted firms, and not FEMA employees. Currently, FEMA contracts with two private sector companies for disaster survivor home inspections. Questions about individuals employed within those contracted companies, or those companies’ hiring practices, must be pursued through their individual contractors. FEMA works closely with law enforcement on a regular basis, and will provide appropriate coordination with law enforcement on this incident.”

The investigation is ongoing.

Sara Nealeigh: 941-745-7081, @saranealeigh