Dozens indicted on federal charges following gun violence in Beaumont

Dozens indicted on federal charges following gun violence in Beaumont

Following a recent series of violent incidents centered in the city of Beaumont, a federal grand jury in Jefferson County has indicted 32 individuals, many with alleged gang ties, on various charges, Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston reported Aug. 15.

Area law enforcement agencies have banded together to battle criminal brutality plaguing Southeast Texas and its citizenry, with officers promising to follow all leads provided by the community, with pastors encouraging parishioners, “If you see something, say something,” and with prosecutors vowing criminals will face the strictest penalties available in state and federal courts. According to Featherston, the 26 indictments charging 32 suspects speak to the strength and success of that partnership and to the justice-seeking efforts being put forth by all involved.

“Our goal is to consistently identify the leading violent offenders in our communities, and by deploying all of our law enforcement tools, we will hold them accountable,” Featherston said, cautioning criminals to cease violent and illegal activities now or face the consequences. “If you are a felon, if you choose to carry a gun or commit crimes, hear all of us now. Ring this bell for you and your friends: We’re coming for you, and we’re going to get you. A warning to those violent offenders that FBI agents, ATF agents are on the streets working with local and county patrol officers, and if there’s a federal crime, you will immediately be taken into federal custody.”

Various law enforcement agencies attended and participated in an Aug. 15 press conference including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, the ATF, the Beaumont Police Department, the Port Arthur Police Department, the DEA, the FBI, the Orange Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

Sixteen defendants named in the Aug. 9 indictments had been arrested at the time of a press conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Beaumont on Aug. 15, the day police started making arrests for the indicted charges. 

The following defendants will make initial appearances before federal magistrate judges in Beaumont: Robert Lee Johnson, 43, of Port Arthur; Desmond Harper, 31, of Beaumont; Carlos Rodriguez-Torres, 35, of Lumberton; Ernest Gatlin, 38, of Beaumont; Harvey Davis, 38, of Bon Weir; David Wells, 38, of Lumberton; Kionte Hawkins, 29, of Beaumont; Damon Hargrave, 37, of Beaumont; Jakorian Sanderson, 20, of Beaumont; LeeJaray Smith, 40, of Beaumont; Joseph Carter, 39, of Beaumont; Dwayne Morgan, 25, of Vidor; Dacqure Holmes, 38, of Port Arthur; Corey Stone, 35, of Beaumont; Arne Koenig, 43, of Buna; and Eric Martin, 32, of Port Arthur.

The defendants face numerous charges with penalties ranging from five years to life in federal prison.

“All these charges are related to violent crime in this area. The charges include – and there’s a variety of them – bank robbery, Hobbs Act conspiracy to commit robberies, firearms conspiracies, possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes, possessing firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, felon in possession of firearms cases, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs, money laundering, illegal re-entry. That’s just a variety of the charges that we’ll be charging today.”

Featherston said the notorious gangs associated with these crimes have beleaguered Beaumont for too long, and named four gangs with ties to the area and the defendants.

“Gangs affiliated with these individuals include the Young Original Gangsters, commonly referred to as the YOG, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, referred to as the ABT, the 52 Hoover Crips and the Gangster Disciples,” Featherston said. “These are not community organizations. These are criminal organizations.”

YOG

The Examiner previously reported on YOG after pregnant 19-year-old Kera Teel was gunned down June 8 by a suspected member, with her daughter Kyndal being born and then dying within minutes at a local hospital. Suspected shooter Jared Bias turned himself in to police June 14 on an unrelated charge and was served with a capital murder warrant while in custody.

Other instances of violence followed on the heels of Teel’s murder. Within weeks, an 8-year-old girl playing on the sidewalk was caught in the crossfire of a blood feud, shot in broad daylight, and young father Alkevin Mire died in his North End Beaumont home in a hail of gunfire as he held his 7-year-old daughter, who was seriously wounded and treated at a Houston-area hospital.

52 Hoover Crips

The Examiner first reported on the 59 Hoover Crips, or 59 “Hoovas,” in 2012. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods explained that the 59 Hoover Crips and the 52 Hoover Crips, the latter of which is implicated in the recent indictments, are “two distinct gangs,” but both were established in LA and both are part of the Crips.

Woods said she has prosecuted cases against area gang members from both organizations.

“The North End seems to have a high population of 52 Hoovers,” she said.

ABT

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, or ABT, is a white supremacist organization with a reputation for hate, having many members who sport swastikas and other neo-Nazi tattoos. ABT is a highly structured organization run by five generals, each of whom oversees one of five geographic regions of Texas and sits on a steering committee, known by ABT affiliates as “The Wheel,” according to a member of the gang. Each general supervises two chains of command —one on the inside and one on the outside of prison. Reporting to each general is an “inside major” and an “outside major,” and each major oversees several captains, lieutenants, sergeants-at-arms and numerous soldiers.

According to the gang’s history, the ABT was established in the early 1980s within the Texas prison system. The gang reportedly modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the Aryan Brotherhood, a California-based prison gang formed in the California prison system during the 1960s. Information from the U.S Attorney’s Office indicates that the ABT was primarily concerned with the protection of white inmates and white supremacy/separatism. Over time, the ABT expanded its criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit.

According to federal prosecutors, ABT enforces its rules and promotes discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, arson, assault, robbery and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the enterprise. Members, and oftentimes associates, were required to follow the “direct orders” of higher-ranking members.

The Gangster Disciples

Four alleged members of the Gangster Disciples were arrested May 4, 2016, for the aggravated robbery and shooting of a clerk at the Stop and Go that occurred April 19, 2016, the Beaumont Police Department reported.

According to BPD, Beaumont police and law enforcement officers from several other agencies executed “a high-risk search warrant” at a residence in the 4800 block of Beaumont Drive in Beaumont at about 5:30 p.m. after obtaining an aggravated robbery warrant for four men they believe responsible for the Stop and Go shooting.

One of the suspects, Jakorian Jamaal Sanderson, was already in jail for unlawfully carrying a weapon. He was arrested on that charge May 3, 2016. Lee’Jaray Smith and Damon Hargrave were both arrested during the execution of the search warrant. Kionte Tayon Hawkins, the suspected shooter from the robbery, was located later at Gulf and Live Oak. According to BPD, “All four suspects are members of the Gangster Disciples.”

Criminal re-offenders

Featherston said many of the individuals named in the Aug. 9 indictments have sordid criminal histories, and many were found in possession of deadly weapons.

“These charged offenses involve felons in possession of firearms, armed robberies of stores, commercial establishments, robberies of people, involved high-speed, dangerous car chases to apprehend these individuals that puts everyone at risk, involves illegal drug dealing and the laundering of proceeds from various crimes,” he asserted. “Weapons that have been recovered to date are 28 firearms, 417 rounds of ammunition and 16 shotgun shells. This includes six .380 handguns, seven .40-caliber handguns, one .32-caliber pistol, five 9 mm pistols, two .45-caliber pistols, two shotguns, four .22-caliber pistols, and a sawed-off shotgun.

“Most if not all of the  defendants in these cases have criminal histories. That means they have criminal convictions. These prior convictions include aggravated robberies, aggravated assaults with deadly weapons, aggravated assaults with bodily injuries, burglary of a habitation, deadly conduct, delivery of a controlled substance, unauthorized use of motor vehicles, evading law enforcement, indecency with children, theft, forgery, fraud, possession – you name it.”

Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham said many of the subjects had seen the inside of a Jefferson County courtroom when facing state-level charges over the years, and they would now see justice at work in the federal courts, a more appropriate venue for these particular charges.

“This is something where your laws are better than our laws,” Wortham told Featherston, explaining to the group that the two entities have been working together to ensure cases are tried in the best court for the most beneficial outcome. “We want to go where we can get the most bang for the buck. I think we can get it here in the federal system (on these cases). Thank you for participating and allowing us to bring you cases.”

Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary said he is proud to be a part of the large team of law enforcers working to snuff out crime in Beaumont and the surrounding area.

“This is a big deal for the Beaumont Police Department,” said the chief. “As many of you know, a lot of these crimes are violent crimes occurring in Beaumont, and a lot of these defendants are in Beaumont and they operate in Beaumont.

“The big deal here is that we’re working together. ... We are pooling all our resources. We’re utilizing every resource we have to combat the violent crime. We’re going to be there, and we’re proud of the support we have received from the citizens. We know they’re concerned, and we want them to know we are trying very hard to combat violent crime, not only in Beaumont but in Southeast Texas.”

Featherston called it a “cooperative effort” and vowed to continue working to end the violence.

“These investigations are not over. They will continue. This is not the last that you will hear from us on this.”

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