Twin Cities gang sweep nets 11 on gun, violence charges

Brooklyn Center police chief Kevin Benner
Brooklyn Center police chief Kevin Benner
Brandt Williams / MPR News

Local and federal law enforcement officials say they've stopped a violent gang feud that's killed and injured more than a dozen people in the Twin Cities over the past few years.

Indictments filed Friday in federal court charge 11 alleged gang members and their associates with illegally buying and possessing guns, selling drugs and committing robberies. Police say the 11 are involved with two gangs that work together — the 1-9 gang, also known as the 1-9 Dipset, and the Stick-Up Boys.

"It's time to go from prosecuting individuals to prosecuting the gang as a whole," U.S. Attorney Andy Luger told reporters. "That's what we're doing here."

Five of the people named in the indictment are already in prison or charged with previous crimes. If convicted, these people will spend more time in prison than if they'd been prosecuted in state court, Luger said, adding that law enforcement has crippled the gangs' ability to continue the feud with their rivals.

According to the indictment, two people Deontay Jones, 22, and Lakesha Coleman, 26, bought at least 10 guns and then gave some of the guns to members of the gangs who, because of their criminal records, couldn't legally buy the guns.

The indictment alleges other gang members sold drugs and committed thefts and robberies to raise money to buy guns. Police say they recovered a total of 18 firearms in connection with the investigation.

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Kevin Benner said gang activity is responsible for three non-fatal shootings in his city over the last month.

Three men were wounded in two separate shootings outside a Denny's restaurant. Benner said at least one of the men named in the conspiracy was involved in one of the Denny's shootings, but he declined to say which one. The third shooting took place earlier this week outside a Brooklyn Center restaurant.

Benner said the back-and-forth violence has given residents the false impression that the city is not safe.

"The violent crime rate in Brooklyn Center is down 30 percent," he said. "That doesn't mean anything to anybody when you have three shootings in 28 days."

More than 50 law enforcement officers from seven agencies, including the ATF, and the Brooklyn Park, Richfield, Minneapolis and Golden Valley police departments, took part in the operation, which essentially dismantled the leadership of the two gangs, said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

According to the indictment, members of the 1-9 Dipset and the Stick Up Boys have been involved in an ongoing violent feud with members of two other allied rival gangs, the Taliban and a gang called YNT, which stands for "young and thuggin'." The feud has killed seven gang members and led to the wounding of nine others since 2010, according to the charges.

Last fall, the alleged leader of the 1-9 Dipset, Tyrone "Crack" Washington, was shot and killed in a downtown nightclub. Several weeks after the shooting, police found members of the gang in a north Minneapolis home with seven guns. Police believed the men were preparing to get revenge for Washington's death.

One of the men charged in connection with that crime, Veltrez Black, 25, was named in the federal indictment. He now faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the conspiracy charges. The others named in the indictment are Tywin Bender, 24; Nitelen Jackson, 24; Dontevius Catchings, 22; Cinque Owens, 20; Jabari Johnson, 24; Darryl Parker, 27; Marquis Woods, 22; Marques Armstrong, 19.

News of the indictment is particularly welcome in Minneapolis, where gun violence has crept upward over the last two years. Police officials blame gang activity for the rise in shootings.

The indictment of alleged Stick Up Boys members also led reporters on Friday to ask Luger about a recent KSTP report claiming the Minneapolis mayor was photographed flashing the gang's sign when she pointed at a young black man with a criminal record.

The report has mushroomed into its own controversy, dubbed #pointergate on social media.

Luger, however, refused to comment Friday on any connection between the investigation of the Stick Up Boys and #pointergate, calling it, "a matter for the National Enquirer."

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