Toledo police set their sights on the Smith Park Mafia, a gang characterized by officials as one of the most notorious and violent in the city.
Police linked members of the Bloods-affiliated gang to a shooting -- Sgt. Joe Heffernan on Friday declined to say which or how many -- and launched an investigation, aiming to charge as many people as possible with participating in a criminal gang, a second-degree felony.
As of Friday evening, seven Smith Park Mafia members, also known as the Lil Heads, were charged with the crime. Two -- Jan Brooks, 22, of 3921 Bowman St. and Tevin Redd, 20, of 1023 Norwood Ave. -- were arraigned Friday in Toledo Municipal Court, with bond set at $25,000 each. Mr. Redd posted bond; Mr. Brooks remained in the Lucas County jail Friday night. Preliminary hearings were set for Thursday, court records show.
Also accused of being members of the Smith Park Mafia are Keiandre Pirtle, 21, of 1103 Woodland Ave., John King, 27, of 1120 Pinewood Ave., Dominique Buford, 20, of 1410 Norwood Ave., Dontae Johnson, 3351 Blanchard St., and Corey Bald, 23, of 2327 Glenwood Ave. All have outstanding arrest warrants.
Toledo police Officer Bill Noon showed a courtroom full of gang members how police monitored the Smith Park Mafia, projecting surveillance photos of the gang hanging out in territory they claimed as their own. "We know who you are," he said to the men who were in court for the second "call-in," part of the Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence.
The initiative aims to reduce gang-related violence by offering services such as job training, education, and addiction services for those willing to give up the guns.
Those who don't will face police, authorities said.
"I'm not playing here," Chief Derrick Diggs said during the 80-minute meeting. "We're serious, and we're going to take care of business. The violence will stop in this community."
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Chief Diggs said there were gang members at the first call-in session on April 27 who "failed to heed my warning."
One of those men was Omar Braswell Sutton, a Manor Boy from a Bloods gang that claims "ownership" of the Moody Manor apartments on Kent Street. The 19-year-old was shot and killed June 20 in what police said Friday was a gang-related incident, although no arrests have been made.
"It's in your best interest to not associate with anyone involved in gun violence in this community," Chief Diggs said.
The 34 men at the meeting attended on orders from parole or probation officers. Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings issued bench warrants for the arrests of six no-shows.
Mayor Mike Bell told the men about going to the funeral for Keondra Hooks, a 1-year-old girl who was shot and killed Aug. 9 as she slept inside a Moody Manor apartment.
He said he looked at Keondra in her casket and thought, "this girl hasn't hurt anyone … and now she's gone, and her little sister is recovering."
Leondra Hooks, 2, was also shot by one of at least 12 rounds fired into the apartment as she slept, but survived a chest wound.
Police have said the shooting at Moody Manor was gang-related. Three men have been indicted for obstructing official business, accused of lying to police during the investigation.
No murder of felonious assault charges have been filed.
"Does this violence have to stop?" the mayor asked. "Absolutely."
The mayor also told the men that, yes, the police are profiling.
He said most of the people arrested for the shootings are black; most of the victims have also been black, the mayor said.
In Toledo this year, 21 people have been killed, 15 by gunfire. At least 127 people have been shot.
"It's happening at a rate that we cannot accept," Mayor Bell said.
Also addressing the men was Leslie Robinson whose son Dionious Robinson, 20, was killed on Cone Street near Ottawa Park in West Toledo on Aug. 20, 2005.
Mr. Robinson told the men that before he became a father he was in a "downward spiral," battling a drug and alcohol addiction.
"My son saved my life," Mr. Robinson said, adding that he's been "clean and sober for 25 years."
He asked the men, "for my son's sake, for me, my wife -- make the change."
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.