During a press conference yesterday at the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC), Attorney General Josh Shapiro, District Attorney Larry Krasner and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross announced a successful joint operation to serve arrest warrants on charges stemming from a Philadelphia Grand Jury investigation into a homicide and retaliatory shooting linked to rival groups from the Grays Ferry neighborhood of South Philadelphia.
The Grand Jury indictments and law enforcement operation derived from a collaboration between Office of Attorney General agents and attorneys and the District Attorney’s Office, which are known as the Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF) working to target groups responsible for a rash of shootings in 2017 and early 2018.
“As your Attorney General, I hear you – I know you want these guns out of your communities, your children safe and your streets free from violence,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro at the press conference. “Our communities, in Philadelphia and throughout the Commonwealth, cannot sustain this level of carnage. As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for Pennsylvania, it is my job to target violent criminals and bring them to justice, and the agents from my office who serve on the Gun Violence Task Force are doing everything they can to work with our law enforcement partners to solve these crimes.”
More than 100 local, state and federal agents, detectives and officers participated in the execution of eight arrest warrants and eight search warrants on residences on Thursday, March 6 on charges including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault and firearms offenses. In addition to the arrests, agents also recovered four handguns, which are being forensically tested for links to other crimes.
“Today, we are announcing the conclusion of a long-term investigation by the Gun Violence Task Force into gang-related violence in South Philadelphia,” Krasner said. “I am very proud of our Assistant District Attorneys for participating in this investigation along with other members of the Gun Violence Task Force, including the Attorney General’s Office and the Philadelphia Police Department. Together, we are making strides towards reducing gun violence and making our streets safer.”
A little over one year ago in February 2018, Philadelphia Police connected with members of the Gun Violence Task Force to investigate an explosion of shootings between two rival groups in Grays Ferry which identify themselves based on the blocks in the neighborhood they control, including 27th Street and 31st Street.
Like much of the gun violence in Philadelphia, petty slights, social media posts and generational grudges fuel the retaliatory violence between 27th Street and 31st Street.
Between January 2017 and February 2018, the violence between these groups accounted for 43 shooting incidents, 35 people shot and injured, including a 12-year-old boy and a 59-year-old woman, and three people killed.
GVTF convened a working group using ATF gun-tracing data, electronic forensic examination from the FBI and other policing techniques to investigate these groups. Attorneys then convened a Grand Jury, which ultimately recommend charges be brought against eight people in connection with two specific incidents, including a homicide in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of South Philadelphia on Dec. 19, 2017 and a retaliation shooting in the Allegheny West neighborhood of North Philadelphia on Dec. 27, 2017.
“This investigation and the attendant arrests serve as an example of the effectiveness of strong and consistent collaboration between law enforcement agencies. We anticipate that this operation will further disrupt narcotics trafficking and related criminal activity and have an appreciable impact on the quality of life of our residents,” said Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
The Gun Violence Task Force is getting results. In 2018, GVTF was responsible for 115 arrests (up 14 percent over 2017), recovered 184 weapons (up 36 percent over 2017) and opened 523 investigations (up 89 percent over the previous three-year period from 2015-2018).
In the first two months of 2019, GVTF recovered 34 weapons (a 60 percent increase over the first two months of 2018) and opened 72 cases (a more than 100 percent increase over January-February 2018).
Those arrested on March 6 in connection with the Dec. 19, 2017 homicide include 22-year-old Khalid Harrison and 20-year-old Mujihad Deen.
Those arrested on March 6 in connection with the Dec. 27, 2017 shooting include 22-year-old Markesha Hines-Washington, 22-year-old Nasir Evans, 20-year-old Montez Burke, 21-year-old Alexis Hodge, and 21-year-old Galvison Morris. Also, 21-year-old Nyseem Smith was arrested on March 6 on charges unrelated to the above incidents but as a member of 31st Street.