LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Five members and associates of the violent street gang known as the Victory Park Crips were indicted in a gun-running investigation that focused on how the gang was able to funnel legally purchased guns to gang members and other convicted felons.
The indictment charged Chicoby Summers, Jerlen Horton, Derrick Hammond, Lakeshia Watts, and Shelby Strong.
All 5 were arrested on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the United States Attorney's Office said.
United States Attorney Russell M. Coleman was joined by ATF Special Agent in Charge Stuart L. Lowrey, FBI Special Agent in Charge Amy S. Hess, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Wine and other law enforcement agencies in making the announcement of the 40-count indictment.
"This is not a spiking of the ball by myself or by members of law enforcement to my right and my left, this is a down-payment on the commitments made by the LM Intel (Louisville Metro Intelligence Task Force) team in January that came together to work collaboratively," Russell said to reporters, "This is a foreclosing of one mechanism of firearms transmissions to convicted felons toward one gang. This is a down-payment on what I hope will be a myriad of multiple announcements from this podium in the coming months."
The LM Intel Task Force looked into multiple gangs in Louisville, but the announced indictment is connected specifically to the Victory Park Crips, a gang who became infamous in the 1990's in Louisville.
The charges focused on one of the methods the gang used to obtain guns for the purpose of helping in drug trafficking, protecting power and reputation and violent intimidation: straw purchases.
According to the indictment, Strong made multiple legal purchases of guns from licensed gun dealers but bought the guns with the intent of funneling them to the Victory Park Crips. The purchases, which included multiple guns at a time, were legal because Strong was not a convicted felon.
Russell said Strong lied on the forms, claiming he was the person who would be owning the guns.
Investigators traced 31 guns to the investigation. All but 4 were purchased in-person at a local gun shop and sporting goods store.
WHAS 11 News is not naming the gun shop or sporting goods store because neither were implicated by officials Wednesday as having had any part of wrongdoing in the purchase process.
While the federal authorities say these indictments deal a blow to one of the methods the Victory Park Crips got their guns, they say the announcement today is just one small piece of a larger effort to fight these violent gangs.
"it is a continuing fight and we are every day it seems we are coming up with some new gang names and lots of times, we are finding those affiliations are just shifting, from one gang to another," Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said, "it is not the sole problem of crime in our community but it is a challenge and it is the focus -- one of the many focuses -- of this task force."
When asked what would stop the Victory Park Crips and other gangs from merely filling the spots left empty by arrested individuals, Russel said any gang operating in Louisville should be on notice.
"We bring with us significant resources. We bring with us statutory and mandatory minimums, we bring with us the ability to charge -- what we call -- enterprise cases and our ability to charge groups. "
"This is a conspiracy that wraps in these 5 defendants but there are also statutory mechanisms to charge groups and go after gangs in wholesale, which we've seen in other districts," he added, "I would encourage those who are on the other side of the law…[they] will soon be very familiar with 18 United States Code and 21 USC and charges they may not have seen in this district, but will in the near immediate term."
Four of the 5 suspects were ordered held by the United States Marshals. Only Watts had the opportunity to be released before trial. Her bail was listed at $25,000.
Investigative Producer Andrea Ash contributed to this story. She can be reached at 502-582-7297 and firstname.lastname@example.org. I-Team Investigator Derrick Rose can be reached at 502-582-7232 and email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter: @WHAS11DRose