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Man denies charges he opened fire in Decatur Masonic Temple parking lot
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Man denies charges he opened fire in Decatur Masonic Temple parking lot

Matthew L. Rice

Matthew L. Rice

DECATUR — Matthew L. Rice is pleading not guilty to charges that he opened fire during a fight in the parking lot of the downtown Decatur Masonic Temple.

Rice, 24, appeared in Macon County Circuit Court on Wednesday. Judge Phoebe Bowers ruled there was probable cause to try him on charges of reckless discharge of a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Rice was represented by attorney Dave Ellison, who had earlier told the judge his client would skip a preliminary hearing aimed at establishing whether the charges are justified.

A sworn affidavit from Decatur police said the charges stem from the early morning hours of Nov. 30 when the police, for unspecified reasons, had the parking lot of the temple, 224 W. William St., under observation. Officer Brent Morey said an officer watched the fight erupt as people left an event hosted at the temple and then saw a suspect, later identified as Rice, open fire multiple times.

Writing in the affidavit, Morey said Rice jumped into a car and tried to flee the lot with two other men but they were intercepted and boxed in by police vehicles flooding into the area.

Morey said the two passengers took off running and were caught but Rice refused to get out and had to be man-handled from the vehicle before he was arrested at 1:47 a.m.

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Morey said that Rice choosing to fire a weapon at a time when crowds of people were all around him was recklessly dangerous. “Rice’s actions jeopardized the safety of the people in the parking lot,” he said.

A search of the lot later produced five shell casings that matched the brand of a live round Morey said was still loaded into a stolen .45-caliber handgun seized from Rice’s vehicle. Five additional shell casings of another brand were also recovered from the temple lot.

Rice remains in the custody of the Macon County Jail in lieu of posting bail set at $150,000. His case was placed on the trial list of Judge Thomas Griffith and a pretrial hearing date was scheduled for Feb. 10.

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Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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