A gang member and drug dealer fatally shot a man over a photo being taken at a Deer Park club last year, the U.S. attorney’s office said in announcing his indictment Tuesday.
Lawrence Lewis, 36, of Calverton, a Bloods member also known as “L Boogs,” was arraigned on a seven-count indictment charging him with the murder of John Birt on July 29 at the Illusions Gentlemen’s Club, said federal prosecutors for the Eastern District, which covers Long Island.
The other charges revolved around his alleged distribution of cocaine base and heroin and the criminal use of weapons.
Lewis pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Central Islip Tuesday and was held without bail.
His attorney said Lewis is not a gang member and was not at the club during the shooting. “I think it’s a situation where they’re overreaching,” Christopher Cassar of Huntington said of authorities.
But prosecutors said Birt and his friends were posing for a photo when one of Lewis’ fellow Bloods members approached to make a hand gang sign during the picture-taking, setting off an argument. Lewis then allegedly fired his handgun, hitting Birt.
In the indictment, prosecutors also asked the judge that Lewis forfeit his weapons, including a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun and a .22 caliber rifle, and ammunition that had been seized in January 2017 from a Shirley house.
Lewis had been arrested at least twice before by Suffolk police since January 2017 on drug, driving and trespassing charges, online court records show. Cassar said Lewis has pleaded not guilty in those pending cases.
Also on Monday, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District announced a drug trafficking indictment against 12 members and associates of a Bloods subset called Mac Baller Brims, which allegedly sold cocaine and heroin in some housing projects in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Prosecutors said they also sold heroin in Maine.
Prosecutors said wiretaps revealed that a Hempstead man, Lavon Barrett, 31, was the highest ranking member of the “Mac Ballers” who were not incarcerated. It was not immediately known if Barrett had an attorney.