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Officials: Apartments were gang's epicenter

Gang sweep details divulged

In this 2011 file photo, Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters speaks during a press conference.

In this 2011 file photo, Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters speaks during a press conference.

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Bradford Gwinnett apartment complex

Bradford Gwinnett apartment complex
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Gang Sweep Press Conference

Officials discuss the arrest of 49 gang members, including 30 netted during a multi-agency gang sweep in December.

Officials discuss the arrest of 49 gang members, including 30 netted during a multi-agency gang sweep in December.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- What started as an anonymous email to the chief of Gwinnett police culminated in a multi-agency gang crackdown that focused on a Norcross apartment complex once heralded for shedding its blight but described by a federal official Monday as "a veritable rats' nest of thieves."

Authorities called last week's sweep a first step in dismantling the "Gangster Disciples," a hodgepodge of several smaller sects, including the Ninth Ward gang of New Orleans, which was headquartered at apartments on Castor Drive. Residents there called the complex quiet and child-friendly, with no discernible gang activity.

Gang affiliates were largely responsible for a wave of 66 home burglaries that stretched from Duluth to the U.S. Highway 29 corridor and included homes occupied by police officers. Those homes were targeted for guns, protective vests and other police equipment, but it wasn't clear how they were singled out, said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter.

The investigation had built steam since February and resulted in the arrest of 49 gang members, including 30 netted during the gang sweep. The gangsters are responsible for dealing drugs and committing burglaries, thefts, robberies (including stick-ups of high school students and mall patrons), carjackings and other violent crimes in Gwinnett County and metro Atlanta, police said. Some 100 ATF agents, U.S. Marshalls and Probations and Paroles officers joined Gwinnett police in the sweep, serving about 120 warrants.

Gwinnett police gang unit Investigator James Evans said Gangster Disciples, whose roots date back to 1970s Chicago, are identified by black bandannas, six-point star diagrams and pitchfork symbols. He's documented 112 known members and expects more arrests. Most members have been identified and ferreted out of Gwinnett schools, he said.

The criminals favored selling drugs and committing other crimes at the Bradford Gwinnett Apartments, a tucked-away complex off Beaver Ruin Road with a single, non-gated entrance where look-outs that included children were posted, Evans said. Gangsters threatened to shoot or burglarize residents who called police.

"They just kept the community in fear," Evans said.

Two suspects with alleged ties to the gang -- Brandon Mosley, of Lilburn, and Hunter Mason Davis, of Snellville -- have been charged with murder in the July shooting of a 19-year-old man at an apartment complex near Lilburn. Another suspect, Daryl Fuller, 20, of Norcross, was fatally shot in the head by a gang unit member in April. Authorities said Fuller pointed a handgun at officers after they approached him for questioning on Singleton Road.

Scott Sweetow, Special Agent in Charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Atlanta Field Division, said part of the gang was comprised of New Orleans residents who fled after Hurricane Katrina and, like the more infamous Bloods and Crips before them, spread across the nation with a focus on branding their gang name.

"They bring this incredible violence with them," he said. "They'll set up shop here and attack the citizenry."

But parents who reside at Bradford Gwinnett Apartments hardly painted a picture of distress Monday. A property manager declined comment.

Built in 1982, the complex sits behind Beaver Ridge Elementary School with orange warning signs declaring the community a drug-free school zones with increased penalties. The tidy rows of apartments are painted in earth tones, with multiple playgrounds and children skittering along sidewalks.

Historically, the 194-unit property was so sketchy, rumor held that pizza delivery people refused to venture in.

But the complex appeared to have turned a corner several years ago, when a nonprofit redevelopment company poured $30,000 into each unit and launched a no-cost afterschool program, weekly teen enrichment groups, senior programs and a community computer lab.

Like others, seven-year resident Alicia Brown said she has no qualms with raising her three young children in the complex.

"I never seen (gang activity), never would have thought," Brown said. "The most I've seen is writing on the walls and stuff by kids. But as far as adults outside gang-banging -- no. My kids play outside everyday."

Ten-year resident Phil Fyneface admits she "pretty much stays indoors" but has never so much as heard of gangs. Waves of police and federal authorities near her home last week left a lasting shock.

"If there are gang members, I want to know how they look," Fyneface said. "They're blending in really good. I would expect this in a big place, not this little-bitty place."

Comments

mustardandbiscuit 2 years, 4 months ago

"I never seen (gang activity), never would have thought," Yeah, right, until they have a drive-by and your kids get shot up. Then, it'll be the police' fault, right? Liar.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 4 months ago

Extreme kudos to the mystery e-mailer. Last year I similarly e-mailed a tip about an obvious drug dealing house in our neighborhood (HUGE amounts of traffic in and out, visitors only stayed a few minutes, lookouts posted, etc.). A few days later we saw a marked police car parked in front of the place, but imagine our surprise when nothing was observed to be going on. Last week we saw on the CrimeMapping website that a drug house had been busted at the exact same place. Over the years this same situation (tips – no action – major crimes occurring as outlined in the tips) has been repeated numerous times. You are free to do the math.

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BuzzG 2 years, 4 months ago

This is not your father's Lawrenceville.

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Karl 2 years, 4 months ago

Congratulations to all the LEOs involved in helping rid our community of the scourge of gangs.

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GwinnettGirl 2 years, 4 months ago

Great job! How sad that these times are - gangs in Gwinnett causing so much criminal activity. Scary times for apartment dwellers. Some people have no choice but to live in an apartment. This should be a wake-up call to the apartment managers (or slum lords) to keep tabs on what is going on in their complex, don't allow multiple residents to live in the same unit, thoroughly check each application. The apartment managers owe it to the residents of that complex and to everyone in the county, that they are keeping the complex safe. And hopefully more residents will send tips to GCPD - active, involved residents who have the courage to report what is going on are to be commended. We need to get rid of gangs and any criminals trying to hide out or carry on their illegal activities in a rental apartment or home. Landlords, do your job! If not, GCPD is watching!

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Tammy52 2 years, 3 months ago

Cleanupguy- I have to ask you....did you mention to ANYONE that you had e-mailed? I promise you, you have no idea who is or is not affiliated with your neighbors. They get tipped off regularly, and by people you'd never suspect. While a lot of gangsters and drug dealers look like the typical teen thug, most do not. You'd be surprised at who may or may not have connections to them. You would seriously be surprised. I guarantee the Police were doing their jobs. The biggest amount of work that Police do is the behind the scenes work that can sometimes take years to gather info to move on. Kudos to GCPD and Lawrenceville PD for all the good work they do on a daily basis. My hat is off to them!

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