Darrent Williams was only 24 years old and an up and coming cornerback for the Denver Bronco’s football team. On New Year’s Eve 2007, Willie Clark, a known gang member, mercilessly gunned him down outside of a local nightclub.
This trial was filled with threats and intimidations to witnesses. Willie Clark’s defense was that he wasn’t at the shooting and that his fellow gang member, Daniel Harris did the shooting. However, Daniel Harris did testify and was given plea deals on his Federal drug charges. Over 40 witnesses were called to testify in this trial. Witnesses who did testify said that Willie Clark bragged about the shooting and how Darrent Williams was disrespecting him before the shooting occurred.
Last week, a jury found Willie Clark guilty in the drive-by shooting murder of Darrent Williams. Clark unloaded his .40-caliber handgun into the limousine full of innocent people that killed Darrent Williams. The jury found him guilty of 21 counts and 2 counts of first-degree murder, 1 for the murder of Williams and 16 counts of attempted murder for each surviving passengers in the car. Willie Clark faces life in prison.
Darrent Williams was against gangs. He was planning to talk to kids in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas about not joining gangs. He wanted to let the kids know that they could make a better life for themselves without being a gang member.
Darrent Williams’ mother was thankful of the verdict but admitted that they would never know what really happened that night. She hopes that this will help start to clean up the streets of gang members.
Mexico celebrated the New Year with 69 murders in one day. The murders were the result of the ongoing drug trafficking battles.
More than 6,500 drug related killings were committed in 2009. Even though President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in late 2006 with deployment of 45,000 soldiers to fight organized crime, it seems that the drug cartels are ready for the fight.
Now these drug cartels have ramped up the bloodshed in just two weeks into 2010. A victim’s face was peeled from his skull and sewn onto a soccer ball. Another killing included a former police officer whose body was divided into two separate ice chests.
The tally of murders since 2001 was 20,000 but half of these murders were committed in the past two years. Authorities hope that this violence will quiet down soon. It seems that the Sinaloa cartel headed by billionaire gang boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman may now become dominant, thus reducing the deadly power struggles. If this is true, law enforcement hopes that the next six months may be calmer.
A major Mexican drug trafficking organization has been targeted in the past forty-four months. Law enforcement has named this Project Coronado. This is a multi-agency law enforcement investigation that has arrested nearly 1,200 individuals on narcotics related charges. This investigation targeted La Familia cartel members and their associates and as a result seized more than 11.7 tons of narcotics.
Just the past two days, 303 individuals in 19 states were arrested through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. More than 3,000 agents and officers participated in this effort. They seized $3.4 million in U.S. currency, 729 pounds of methamphetamine, 62 kilograms of cocaine, 967 pounds of marijuana, 144 weapons and 109 vehicles.
The La Familia cartel is a violent drug trafficking cartel based in the state of Michoacán, in southwestern Mexico. La Familia controls drug manufacturing and distribution in and around Michoacán, including the importation of vast quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States. Ironically, La Familia is opposed to the sale of methamphetamine to Mexicans, however does support its export to the United States for consumption by Americans. La Familia is a heavily armed cartel that has utilized violence to support its narcotics trafficking business including murders, kidnappings and assaults.
The ATF recently reported that the drug cartel is now using grenades to intimidate and kill. According to an Associate Press article, a fragmentation grenade from Mexico’s drug war was tossed into a south Texas bar. Fortunately, the grenade thrower failed to pull a second safety clasp and didn’t explode.
In the past, Mexican drug violence across the border was in the form of kidnappings and killings, but now they are using grenades to kill larger numbers of people indiscriminately. In Mexico, there have been countless grenade attacks against police and rivals. Three alleged drug hit men threw several grenades into Independence Day crowds, killing eight people and wounding 106 others in an unprecedented attack on civilians.
Grenades are now becoming the weapons of preference by drug hit men. Grenades are cheap and easy to find. Many are left over from Central America’s civil wars, sold on the black market to drug cartels or smuggled in. Others come from the region’s militaries. In April, Guatemala seized 563 grenades after a shootout with Mexican drug cartel members. These grenades came from Guatemalan military bases. The Mexican government says 1,600 grenades were seized in Mexico last year, a 170 percent increase from 594 in 2007. This year, 950 grenades have been recovered this year and evidence shows that grenades are making their way north.
ATF cautions that grenade attacks north of the border would come from rogue cartel members or homegrown gang thugs who assist cartels in home invasions and other crimes. They would most likely target people tied to the criminal world, rather than civilians. Cartel bosses probably wouldn’t approve of grenade attacks on US law enforcement because of the ramifications from the US.
Finally, ATF officials said the United States keeps tight controls over its own grenade inventories. So far they know of no grenades recovered in Mexico that were taken directly from American military supplies.
The Sun Newspaper recently reported that in June of this year the U.S. Marshals arrested a most wanted gang fugitive in Hopkins, Minnesota. As part of Operation FALCON 2009 (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally) James Epps age 28 of Minneapolis was found and arrested.
Epps was charged with first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree aggravated robbery for alleged incident back in May. He and an accomplice are accused of robbing two people at gunpoint at a motel. They were armed with shotguns and according to the arrest warrant Epps allegedly bit off part of one of the victim’s ear. Epps is reported to be a member of the Black P-Stone gang.
Since 2005, Operation FALCON has made more than 91,000 arrests and cleared more than 117,000 warrants. This operation is the largest and most successful fugitive apprehension efforts in U.S. Marshals history. There are approximately 175 federal, state and local law enforcement officers. They make up 16 separate arrest teams working throughout the operation. Each participating local officer is sworn in as a Special U.S. Deputy U.S. Marshal immediately prior to the start of the operation.
The goal of Operation Falcon is to make communities safer. Each time an arrest is made through FALCON operations there are less dangerous individuals in the community making the community safer.
Last September, a young man who was from Somalia living in Minneapolis was murdered by one of the Somalia gangs that call Minneapolis, MN their home. Unfortunately, this has become common in recent years. An estimated 32,000 Somalis have settled in Minnesota along with gangs like the Somali Hot Boyz, the Somali Mafia and Madhibaan with Attitude, all who have grown more active in recent years.
Over a ten-month period, seven Minneapolis area Somalia men have been killed. Police believe fellow Somalis killed them. The Somali community in Minnesota, one of the nation’s largest, is outraged but police and prosecutors are struggling to catch and try the killers. Few witnesses have stepped forward because they fear reprisal and have a deep-rooted distrust of authority.
Sadly, more than half of Minnesota’s Somalis are living in poverty and many complain that they feel that authorities are biased against them because of their Islamic faith. However, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is hoping that a conviction of even one gang member would show local Somalis that the law is on their side and that they can trust local authority.
Reports from law enforcement throughout the U.S. and Canada also have seen an increase in Somali gang activity. It will take trust and belief that law enforcement is on their side in order to help immigrant Somalis to stop the gang activity in their community.
Recently, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) and local police arrested and identified nine gang members in Greeley, Colorado. The gang members are with the Sureno 13 street gang. The history of their crimes are long and include convictions for assault, burglary, larceny, possessing illegal drugs, illegally possessing firearms, engaging in a riot with a weapon, harassment, violating a protection order, criminal mischief and felony menacing.
Three of the gang members are “green card” holders and with their past criminal convictions, they will probably loose their status and face deportation. A federal immigration judge will make the final determination in each case.
Operation Community Shield was conducted in this case to help steam the threat of street gangs. Street gangs pose a growing threat to public safety nationally and to communities throughout the U.S. This joint operation is part of an ongoing national initiative of the National Gang Unit at ICE. ICE partners with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target transnational street gangs based on the significant public safety threat they pose.
Since February 2005 when ICE began Operation Community Shield, more than 13,000 gang members belonging to more than 900 different gangs have been arrested nationwide. ICE is encouraging you to report suspicious activity by calling their toll-free hot line at 1-866-347-2423. This hot line is staffed around the clock.
The Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement recently announced the creation of a temporary, multi-jurisdictional law enforcement unit specifically to combat gang violence in the Twin Cities this summer. This new unit temporarily replaces the suspended operations of the Metro Gang Strike Force until a review panel and the FBI complete investigations.
The Metro Gant Strike Force’s daily operations were suspended on May 27th following the Legislative Auditor’s report. The report concluded that the strike force’s internal controls were not adequate to safeguard seized and forfeited property. In addition, some officers from the strike force allegedly shredded documents prior to the review.
Gang activities during the summer months usually escalate in the Twin Cities, as a result a temporary gang unit needed to be implemented. This temporary gang unit will meet the needs of local law enforcement, comply with all the Legislative Auditor’s recommendations and implement the correct evidence handling procedures. The unit will be made up of eight to ten investigators at the minimum from local law enforcement agencies across the metro area. The unit will have a strict governance and supervisory structure.
Until a reorganization of the Metro Gang Strike Force is completed, the temporary unit will continue to work within the community to combat gang violence.
Recently, the courts in Minnesota have implemented a civil gang injunction to help deter and control gang crimes. This injunction applies to criminal gangs, defined by law as associations of three or more people who engage in patterns of criminal activity. In addition, specific gang members can be named in such orders.
In this case, a governmental entity, such as law enforcement of a certain area, may apply to a district court judge to obtain a gang injunction. However, the judge has to find that the gang is a public nuisance and meet the civil law threshold of a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is lower than the threshold needed to obtain a criminal conviction.
According to a recent MNSun article a member of the Sureno 13 gang was charged with murder in the first degree and three counts of attempted murder in the first degree after a gang-related drive by shooting. Edgar Rene Barrientos-Quintana also known as “Smoky” of Richfield drove through a South Minneapolis neighborhood and fired at four individuals from the rear passenger window of a silver vehicle. His trial is to begin in Hennepin County District Court in mid-May.
With the new civil gang injunction, hopefully future gang crimes can be alleviated or at least give additional crime fighting tools to police to stop gang activity.
Recently, America’s Most Wanted announced the nations’ Most Wanted Gang Members list. This list is in cooperation with The National Gang Targeting, Enforcement & Coordination Center (GangTECC). Gang TECC began operations in summer 2006 as the national anti-gang task force created by the Attorney General.
GangTECC is a multi-agency center that was designed to serve as a critical catalyst in unifying federal efforts to help disrupt and dismantle the most significant and violent gangs in the United States. The senior investigators at GangTECC come from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Department of Homeland Security. These federal agents work in close collaboration with the Gang Squad prosecutors in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, and with analysts and others at the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC).
Street gangs such as the Bloods, Crips, MS-13 and Latin Kings are probably the largest group and control the most geographic area. However, from the 11 known national gangs, most are small and have limited influence. As national gangs move from the southwest to urban areas, law enforcement needs to be more aware of their violent crimes and drug markets.
Many innocent people are caught in gang wars and some communities have found that 80 percent of their crime is gang related. These communities have found an increase in shoplifting, drugs and even murder. No longer do the gangs operate with stereotypical hand signs, colors and tattoos. They try to keep a low profile to do their crimes.
Gang membership is increasing in the U.S. At last count NGIC knew of at least 20,000 named gangs with more than 1 million members.