NYPD takedowns in Manhattan have led to charges against 37 reputed gang members for murder and numerous shootings, including an October 2015 gunfight that ended with the death of Det. Randolph Holder, according to a pair of indictments unsealed Thursday.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced the charges as well as a separate indictment in a drug trafficking case, at a news conference with NYPD Commissioner William Bratton.
In two coordinated actions over the last two days, cops and investigators with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office arrested 35 of the suspects, said to be members of two violent rival street gangs — the “East Army” gang of East Harlem and the “600/Gutta Gang” of West Harlem, Vance said.
The gangs have been engaged in street warfare for at least two years in Harlem and upper Manhattan, according to investigators.
“The East Army and Gutta defendants attempted to kill each other in order to play out their rivalry . . . they assaulted each other and used illegal guns and ammunition,” Vance said, adding that the violence was for nothing more than retaliation between the rival gangs.
The two indictments charged one of the defendants with murder and other alleged gang members with 14 shootings that left seven people injured.
Demetrius “Meech” Washington, 20, a reputed Gutta gang member, was charged with the June 2015 murder of Jordan Barber, 18, outside a basketball tournament in Rucker Park, as well as attempted murder for shooting and wounding a second victim during the same incident, Vance said. Washington is already in custody on a different case, officials said.
In a related aspect of the investigation, officials said that one episode of gunfire led to Tyrone Howard, who is not a gang member, fleeing the scene in East Harlem and later confronting and fatally shooting Holder on the night of Oct. 20, 2015. Howard was previously indicted on a charge of murder in Holder’s killing.
Investigators made the case with wiretaps, videos, undercover work, monitoring of calls to and from Rikers Island as well as social media postings, Vance said.
The shootings pulled the East Harlem area into a downward spiral of violence and served to boost the status of the gang members, Vance said.
The street warfare had old roots. According to Vance, the Gutta gang is an amalgamation of four street crews who aimed at paying back East Army for the 2010 killing of a Gutta member known as “Freeze.” Besides murder, charges in the indictments include conspiracy, attempted murder, gang assault and weapons possession.
Vance also announced the indictment of three men on drug trafficking charges in connection with a cocaine delivery service.
Eighteen of the customers, who Vance said paid between $200 to $300 for each transaction in places like local delis or Duane Reade and CVS pharmacies, were also charged with misdemeanor drug offenses.