LINCOLN — Gang members are accused of beating two strangers to death with a baseball bat last summer, and another gang's challenge may have been the trigger, according to authorities.
Officer Katie Flood said Tuesday that Lincoln police have arrested two men in the past week in connection with the deaths. She said the investigation is continuing, and more arrests are possible.
The two men arrested, Tyler J. Thornburg, 22, of Cheney and Richard E. McLaughlin III, 20, of Lincoln are members of the True Blue Soldiers, a local gang, Flood said.
Thornburg was arrested Saturday on suspicion of second-degree murder, use of a weapon to commit a felony and being an accessory to murder.
According to a police affidavit, he allegedly beat Dave Mueller, 27, with a baseball bat in the early hours of June 29.
The attack happened shortly after Mueller walked by the north Lincoln house where Thornburg and others were partying. Mueller died nine days later in a hospital.
Thornburg is also accused of being involved in the fatal beating of Nathan Walton, a 20-year-old mentally disabled man who went by the nickname Shane, about an hour later in central Lincoln.
A witness to the second attack called police at 4:28 a.m. to report hearing screaming and seeing two or three men beating a man on the ground.
McLaughlin has been charged with two counts of being an accessory to murder and two counts of using a weapon to commit a felony for his alleged involvement in the two deaths.
Mueller and Walton both died of blunt force trauma to the head. Flood said neither had any connection to the gang.
“Both of the victims were selected at random,” she said.
Authorities did not begin to suspect Thornburg and McLaughlin until Nov. 1, when several confidential informants came forward, Flood said.
According to police, the events leading up to the deaths began at the party attended by Thornburg, McLaughlin and several others, including members of another Lincoln gang, the South Side Winos. The party was at McLaughlin's house.
Police believe that the attacks occurred after members of the South Side Winos called the True Blue Soldiers a small-time gang.
According to police, the baseball bat used in the beatings was a blue-painted one that came from McLaughlin's house. A witness reported seeing Thornburg holding the bat after Mueller was hit.
Both Thornburg and McLaughlin were already in custody at the time of their most recent arrests.
Thornburg is in jail awaiting trial on charges of possessing a stolen firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing a sawed-off shotgun.
McLaughlin is serving a two- to five-year prison sentence for burglary and possession of a stolen firearm.
He began his sentence July 2, three days after the attacks on Mueller and Walton.