Seventeen teens and young adults who officials say belonged to three street gangs that formed an alliance in Brooklyn were charged Tuesday with starting a wave of violence that left four dead and 10 injured in shootings .
The gangs, made up of young people from the neighborhoods of Brownsville, East New York and Fort Greene, have joined forces in an “umbrella” gang known as the YPF to expand their territory and increase their access to guns, Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn District Attorney, mentioned.
The young men and women, aged 17 to 23, face charges of second degree murder, assault and possession of a criminal weapon. A spokesperson for Mr Gonzalez said 14 of them were in custody on Tuesday and would be brought to justice later today. It was not clear whether any of those charged had lawyers on Tuesday night.
“I will tell you that we know law enforcement alone cannot end gang and gun violence,” Gonzalez said at a press conference on Tuesday. “But today’s indictments are a big step in securing justice for victims and improving public safety.”
Mayor Eric Adams, who also appeared at the press conference, said the type of withdrawal that led to the arrests should be replicated across New York City.
“We are not going to live in a culture of violence and we will not be defined by the crisis of violence,” he said. “This is not who we are as a city. We deserve better, and today the public prosecutor has shown us that we will improve.
Mr Gonzalez said authorities were trying to crack down on “senseless gang and gun violence.” He announced last week that homicides and shootings in the borough were down in 2021 from the previous year and he cited gang cut-outs as one of the reasons for the drop.
Law enforcement experts and civil rights activists have long disputed the anti-gang tactics used by law enforcement agencies in New York City. These critics say police often rely on unreliable information to carry out such actions, classifying too many young men of color as gang members.
Mr Gonzalez has previously said that gang killings done to appear crime harsh are meaningless and destructive, and ignore the main reason people join gangs: to protect themselves.
But he also said the tactic can come in handy when authorities focus on people who engage in violence.
“These investigations are complicated, they are difficult, but they are effective and they are necessary,” he said on Tuesday.
Mr Gonzalez said a “troubling aspect” of the case announced on Tuesday was the age of those charged. When the investigation began in March 2019, some were only 14 years old.
“It is heartbreaking that some of our younger residents in our county are involved in this gang and gun violence,” he said.
Investigators said the gang members decided to form a larger alliance under the YPF banner to increase their numbers and geographic dominance, and to expand the territory where they can travel safely.
“As part of this alliance, they have all agreed to embrace the rivalries and enemies of other gangs,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “So this alliance not only brought these three gangs together and created a bigger gang, but it also increased the violence. “
He said the alliance was behind more than a dozen shootings, including one at the MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn in September that resulted in a gunshot in the arm of a college student. from New York.
During the press conference, officials showed surveillance footage of an October 2020 episode that they said showed two alliance members firing shots inside a bodega in the east of New York.
Sherard McKoy, an 18-year-old freshman who authorities said had no gang connections, was killed in the shooting. Mr Gonzalez said that although Mr McKoy was not the intended target, he was with an alleged rival of the two gunmen.
“He was an 18-year-old student, a freshman,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “A young man who loved to play basketball and had the ambition to become a teacher in New York.”
Daigyonna Long, 20, of Virginia, has been another victim of the alliance’s coordinated attacks on their rivals, officials said. Ms Long died after being shot at a birthday party in Brooklyn that authorities said alliance members showed up uninvited.
Surveillance video released during the press conference captured what officials said were two members of the alliance and two other people opening fire in the lobby of the building where the party took place.
“She never returned home to Virginia,” Mr. Gonzalez said of Ms. Long.
Five of those charged face life sentences if found guilty of the most serious charges, Gonzalez said; others face up to 25 years in prison.
Ashley Southall contributed reports.