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FBI, police round up suspected drug-dealing gang members across metro Denver

Feds: Dealers ran 'open-air drug markets' parks
Posted at 9:33 AM, May 04, 2017

DENVER — FBI agents and local police officers rounded up dozens of gang members Thursday morning suspected of turning areas of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood into “an open-air drug market,” brazenly selling crack cocaine in parks, around a light rail station and at an apartment complex.

The 20-month investigation culminated in a takedown of members of the East Side Crips as 225 FBI agents and officers from 18 local law enforcement agencies, including SWAT teams from four police departments, began making arrests Wednesday night and continued the dragnet into Thursday morning.

A federal grand jury indicted 52 gang members and their associates from around the Denver metro area.

They’re accused of selling powder cocaine and crack cocaine in public places while “terrorizing” community members, said Robert C. Troyer, the Acting U.S. Attorney for Colorado.

By Thursday morning, 35 suspects were in jail and a manhunt continued for 17 others. Authorities seized $80,000 in cash, three guns, 9 ounces of powdered cocaine along with a Hummer and GMC Denali sport utility vehicle, law enforcement officials announced at an afternoon news conference.

Gang members with nicknames like “Lil Crypto,” “Trigga Loc” and “Bonehead Jr.” were arrested.

“With the summer on the horizon, we think and we hope that the indictment of these 52 crack-dealing gang members and their associates puts some important public spaces back into the hands and back into the use of the public,” Troyer said.

The drug dealers were operating in Five Points, including around the light rail stations near East 26th Avenue and Welton Street, an apartment building and Curtis Park.

Troyer said the law enforcement raids were conducted with surgical precision to protect community members.

“In Colorado we pride ourselves on gold-standard law enforcement partnerships that make life safe here,” he stressed. “Eighteen agencies came together in this investigation and removed poison, fear and danger from parks, neighborhoods, and public transportation. And they did it with minimal disruption to the folks in those communities who just want to go outside, walk to school, use their parks, or take the light rail.”

FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Calvin Shivers said, “This is a shining example of what can happen when the law enforcement community comes together. We understand that these violent gangs terrorize communities. What we want to do is work the communities, eradicate those that are disrupting the lives and the communities within the Denver metropolitan area.”

“The magnitude of this investigation demonstrates the collaborative effort to identify, target and address metropolitan-wide organized gangs involved in drug trafficking and violence in our community,” said Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz. "The hard work and dedication of all the investigators and officers involved will have a tremendous impact on our communities. Thank you to everyone who was involved.”

 Court records identified some of those arrested as:

• Jerrell Birch
• Chilece Bohannon
• Kamil Riley
• Hugo Moreno-Cortes
• Charles Watts
• Eduardo Estrada-Cortes
• Nyeesha Howard
• Spencer Antoine,
• Leon Tajari Jackson,
• Roger Lester
• Christopher Jones
• Freddie Mota-Deluna
• Deon Jackson
• Samuel Johnson
• Ronald Phelps

The roundup was conducted by officers of the Metro Gang Task Force, including police in Aurora, Northglenn, Edgewater, Denver, and other local cities.

The Metro Gang Task Force consists of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Aurora Police Department, the FBI, the Denver Police Department, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado National Guard Joint Counter-Drug Task Force, the Denver District Attorney’s Office, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Lakewood Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI). Agencies assisting with the arrest operations include: The Longmont Police Department, the Northglenn Police Department, the Thornton Police Department, the Westminster Police Department, and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

See a news conference held this afternoon below. 

Jace Larson is an award-winning investigative reporter for Denver7 Investigates. If you have a story idea or a tip for Jace, email or text him at jace@thedenverchannel.com or 720-270-1468. You can remain anonymous. Connect with Jace on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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