BALTIMORE (AP) — Local and federal authorities announced indictments against 14 men they say are members of a notoriously vicious gang known for violence, drug trafficking and witness intimidation both on Baltimore's streets and in its jails.
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday announced indictments against more the men they say are members of the Black Guerilla Family, a gang so brutal it is considered "the FBI's number one violent gang target in the city of Baltimore," said Stephen Vogt, FBI special agent in charge in Baltimore, on Thursday.
In the indictment, the alleged gang members are charged with conspiracy and racketeering. The indictment says those charged are responsible for drug trafficking, intimidating witnesses, drug overdoses that resulted in three deaths, two attempted murders and two murders, including one in which a teenage gang member was fatally shot.
The document describes the Black Guerilla Family as a meticulously organized criminal enterprise with a code of conduct so strict violating it is punishable by essay assignments, fines, beatings, stabbings and sometimes murder.
The gang garnered international media attention in 2013 after a sweeping federal indictment charged 44 inmates and prison guards at the Baltimore City Detention Center with participating in a widespread drug and cellphone smuggling operation.
Timothy Michael Gray, who federal officials say was the gang's citywide commander until 2013, collected cash from members who oversaw the gang's operations in Baltimore. Under his watch, the indictment alleges, Marshall Spence murdered a teenage gang member, then threatened a juvenile who had witnessed the crime. In a subsequent phone conversation with other gang members, the indictment says, Spence then discussed murdering witnesses.
"That's what we're facing on the street," Rosenstein said at a news conference on Wednesday. "It's important for us to intervene in these gang disputes and take the perpetrators off the streets and eliminate the opportunity for retaliation that we've seen fuel some of the violence we've seen over the last six weeks."
The indictments are the result of an 18-month investigation, Vogt said, that demanded a strong partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement. On Wednesday Vogt praised Police Commissioner Anthony Batts for his patience and willingness to dedicate resources to such a "slow-moving" probe.
But over the past six weeks the bloodiest period in Baltimore in decades, with 42 murders in the month of May and 13 so far in June_the city's arrest rate has plummeted, leaving Batts to defend a police force critics say have abandoned their posts in the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods following unrest and rioting prompted by the death of Freddie Gray.
"These police officers have gone through trauma," Batts said, adding that he has taken a group of officers from the Western District, where Gray was arrested and the majority of violence erupted during the April 27 riots, off the streets this week so they could participate in team-building exercises, retraining and education. "My guys are going out there, getting into officer-involved shootings and taking guns of the streets.
"My officers have an ethical obligation to the babies, to the kids, to the mothers, to the weak ones out there to protect this city as a whole and keep their jobs going in that direction," Batts said. "We are providing them with insight, we are providing them with counseling, we are providing them with opportunities to share what they need to do, but at the end of the day we get paid to get the job done."
In a separate investigation, Baltimore police and the Drug Enforcement Administration announced on Thursday 11 indictments on conspiracy and drug charges related to a west Baltimore gang. Police say one of the men involved in the gang has been charged in a Memorial Day weekend double shooting that injured a 9-year-old boy.