Feds charge another 14 people in Minneapolis gang crackdown

A person speaks during a news conference
Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, right, and other law enforcement leaders announce charges against 14 additional alleged gang members at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Wednesday.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced charges against an additional 14 alleged members of Minneapolis street gangs. The new criminal complaints follow similar charges brought in May against 45 suspected members of the Highs and Bloods. Authorities have expanded the crackdown to include several additional gangs.

Seven of the newly-charged defendants are suspected to be part of the Lows gang, which generally operates in north Minneapolis south of West Broadway Avenue. Prosecutors also brought complaints against four additional people allegedly affiliated with the Highs, which operates north of West Broadway.

Two alleged members of the 10z are also newly charged. The 10z has territory south of downtown Minneapolis, officials said.

All 14 of the new defendants face gun charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm because of previous state-level convictions. Two also face machine gun charges, and three are charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. The defendants are in custody.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

A federal grand jury previously returned an indictment against 25 people suspected of being part of the Bloods, and a judge on Tuesday unsealed an indictment charging an additional Bloods member.

Many of the defendants in the earlier indictments face racketeering conspiracy charges under the RICO law, which Congress passed in 1970 to target the mafia. Prosecutors have used RICO more recently to charge street gangs.

None of the 14 defendants in the new cases faces a RICO count, but U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said he has not ruled out such charges.

Luger said that it takes time to build racketeering cases, and swift arrests are the top priority for him, Minneapolis police, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and the other agencies involved in the anti-gang effort.

“What we decided collectively, was rather than wait for the conclusion of those investigations and building those complex and detailed cases, we would get these people off the streets quickly,” Luger said.

Of the first 45 people charged in May, three have pleaded guilty. On Friday a jury convicted 35-year-old Nathan John Walz, a member of the Bloods, of gun and drug trafficking charges.

Investigators followed suspected gang members’ social media postings. According to the complaint against Marquez Demar Hill-Turnipseed, 21, ATF Special Agent Nicholas Bradt found a music video that allegedly shows Hill-Turnipseed and other suspected Lows members “holding and brandishing firearms.”

After getting a warrant to search property associated with Hill-Turnipseed, ATF agents and Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies opened a laundry hamper and allegedly found a Glock .45 caliber pistol that was illegally modified with an auto sear to fire as a fully automatic weapon.

According to a separate criminal complaint, police arrested Ohagi Charles Walker, 27, on July 30, following a vigil for a Lows member fatally shot by members of the Highs. A confidential informant allegedly told investigators the Lows were planning to retaliate for the killing, and that Walker had urged fellow Lows members to “get outside and get active.”

Police staked out the vigil near Medicine Lake Park in Plymouth and saw a half dozen vehicles speed away. After stopping Walker’s vehicle, detectives allegedly found a .40 caliber pistol. Prosecutors say the firearm was a “ghost gun,” which lacked a serial number because it was assembled from a kit.

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said the gang crackdown appears to be helping move the city’s violent crime statistics downward.

O’Hara said a relatively small number of people are responsible for most of the city’s violent crime, and that while violence is still at unacceptable levels, things are moving in the right direction.

“There have been 127 fewer families who’ve had a loved one affected by gun violence this year compared to last,” O’Hara said. “Despite having the lowest number of sworn members in the MPD in decades, the level of gun violence in Minneapolis this summer is dropping to near pre-pandemic levels.”

At the news conference, O’Hara stood beside a chart that showed a big spike in the number of shooting victims in the city in mid 2020 — 111 of them that June alone. There were smaller spikes in 2021 and last year.

By June of this year, the number of reported gunshot wound victims in the city had fallen to 35. Homicides are also down, and carjackings fell by half compared to this time in 2022.