The FBI and Los Angeles Police Department on Thursday arrested what authorities described as the leaders of a gang responsible for 28 murders over the last five years in and around a one-square-mile area of southwest Los Angeles.
Hundreds of heavily armored LAPD officers and FBI agents carrying 16 federal drug indictments stormed locations in the Baldwin Village area, arresting suspected members of the Black P-Stone gang.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday November 12, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 75 words Type of Material: Correction
Gang sweep -- An article in Friday's California section about a gang sweep in the Baldwin Village neighborhood of Los Angeles identified Quran Durant as the alias of Derek Pascascio, one of eight suspects arrested. Durant is Pascascio's girlfriend and was not arrested in the sweep. Also, a photo caption with the article identified people shown leaving a building with their hands raised as suspects. The FBI says they were residents who were being evacuated.
The arrest capped more than a year of investigation in which authorities used informants to infiltrate the organization and make drug buys that were recorded secretly on videotape. All of the charges related to drug offenses, including conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.
"This is a battle between good and evil. These are evil people. They are murderers. They are drug dealers. They poison these neighborhoods," Police Chief William J. Bratton said at a news conference. "We are making a major effort to disrupt and hopefully dismantle the leadership of one of the more prolifically violent gangs in the city of Los Angeles."
Bratton said the Black P-Stones have deep roots in a gritty section of low-slung apartment houses between La Brea Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard south of Coliseum Street. Baldwin Village, for generations known as "the Jungle" for its rich assortment of tropical foliage, was the backdrop for portions of the crime film "Training Day."
Baldwin Village has long been an island of heavy gang activity in a larger community of middle-class and upper-middle-class neighborhoods that dot southwest Los Angeles at the foot of the Baldwin Hills, said Police Capt. James Craig, division commander for the southwest area.
Baldwin Village is less than a mile square, but the LAPD estimates that it is home to 700 to 800 gang members. Police Lt. Paul Vernon said that is an extraordinarily high ratio -- even for the city's highest-crime neighborhoods. "These are the guys who lure teenagers into the gang life," he said.
Over the last five years, Black P-Stone members have been involved in 800 street robberies and 1,500 aggravated assaults as well as the 28 murders, said Craig.
Bratton has been so concerned about crime in Baldwin Village that he selected the area as one of five neighborhoods to receive extra officers, who are pursuing small crimes such as trespassing in hopes of preventing more serious crimes. Craig said that this effort has reduced crime somewhat, but that officials expect a larger drop in the wake of the arrests.
The FBI and LAPD called the investigation "Operation Stone Cold." Detectives spent more than a year building cases against gang leaders with street nicknames such as "Briminal," "Blaster" and "Bandit."
Authorities said many of the cases are built around videotapes of gang members selling drugs to informants.
"We've worked to put them away for a very long time. Those arrested today face 40 years to life if convicted," J. Stephen Tidwell, assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, said at a news conference announcing the arrests.
Authorities had arrested eight people as of 8 p.m. Thursday and were searching for eight others. An additional seven not listed on arrest warrants were detained for alleged parole violations and other charges.
Those arrested Thursday included: Shannon Thomas Adkins, known as "Big Stray Dogg," 31, of Los Angeles; Lorenzo Clay II, known as "Big Man," 32, of Hawthorne; Ronald Herbert Ellis, known as "Blaster," 40, of Los Angeles; Lawrence Eugene Hill Sr., known as "LB" and "Lil Black," 35; David Dermaine Jones, known as "Tall Blood" and "Popkorn," 29, of Los Angeles; Derek Pascascio, known as "PB" and "Quran Durant," 29, of Los Angeles; Aaron Westley Smith Sr., known as "Bandit," 31, of Los Angeles; James Womack IV, also known as "J-Berry" and "J-Bear," 32, of Inglewood.
Eight others remain fugitives: Carlos Merrel Broady, also known as "Wink," 28; Cornel Crosby Carnegie, known as "J.J.," 26; Mark Anthony Dacosta, known as "Marky Boy," 34; Jesse Lee Floyd III, known as "Jesse James," 49; Ronald Lionel Hill Jr., known as "Big Rat Boy," 26; Quentin Lamont Howard, known as "Briminal," 32; Richard Pecantte, known as "Richie," 37; and Ray Dannell Walker.