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5 men charged in brazen shooting outside Bridgeport courthouse that targeted rival gang members, federal prosecutors say
Hartford Courant - 8/7/2020
Five Bridgeport gang members have been indicted in connection with the brazen, mid-day shooting on the steps of a state courthouse that seriously injured four rival gang members in late January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Four of the men were arrested Thursday, a fifth was already in state custody and all five were charged with attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, prosecutors said.
The charges represent a significant step in a deep local and federal investigation into gang-related crime that has gripped Bridgeport this year and last, U.S. Attorney John Durham said in a statement.
“I want to stress that while this is a significant and substantial prosecution that will assist in quelling violence in Bridgeport, our work is far from over,” he said. “We continue to jointly investigate other violent acts in Bridgeport, and the groups, gangs or individuals responsible for them.”
The indictment alleges Marquis Israel, 24; Asante Gaines, 23; Destine Calderon, 25; Diomie Blackwell, 23; and Laheem Jones, 25, are all members of the so-called “Greene Home Boys” gang, also called the “Hots,” and were targeting rival gangs during a series of retaliatory and deadly shootings in Bridgeport early this year.
Prosecutors believe all five were together in the car that pulled alongside a Chevy Impala outside the state courthouse on Golden Hill Road just after noon on Jan. 27 and unleashed a hail of bullets that shredded the Impala, sending bystanders at the courthouse running for cover.
Four members of a rival gang were inside the car, two of whom were seriously injured and two of whom suffered minor injuries. One of the men is now paralyzed and investigators later found the Impala had almost two dozen bullet holes in the driver side and windshield area, prosecutors said.
Chaos erupted outside and inside the courthouse as those victims ran for cover, including into the courthouse lobby, where marshals locked down the building and treated a couple of the men who were hurt, witnesses described at the time.
Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez told reporters gathered for a briefing that police believed the drive-by shooting was retaliation for the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old at the Greene Homes public housing complex, the gang’s namesake home base, the night before. While he was speaking on live television, police cars zoomed past in pursuit of the shooters’ vehicle.
City officials and police flooded the city with investigators to try to stem the violence in the aftermath of the courthouse shooting and the city temporarily imposed a youth curfew.
Investigators have since discovered the Greene Home Boys formed alliances with other gangs, including the Original North End gang, to target rival groups and further narcotics and criminal enterprises, prosecutors said. The shooting is just part of a larger and ongoing investigation into those gang activities in the city, they added.
The five men arrested Thursday face federal assault with a dangerous weapon and attempted murder charges in violation of the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering statute, court documents show. The indictment outlines the gang’s members and allies who use murder, violence and threats to further their drug sales and protect their territory.
The men face up to 43 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
Israel also was charged with firing a gun during the courthouse shooting and one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin. If convicted, the first charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and the second carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
All five appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitsimmons on Thursday afternoon via videoconference.
Investigators said the charges leveled Thursday should serve as a warning to the rest of the gang members in Bridgeport.
“These crimes rob the neighborhoods of safety and hold law-abiding citizens of Connecticut hostage to drug-fueled lawlessness,” said Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England. “This is unacceptable and will not be allowed to happen.”
Zach Murdock can be reached at email@example.com.
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