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Friday, 21 January 2011

Christopher R. Wilson, 21, recently pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony robbery allegation and awaits sentencing in 25th Judicial District Court.

07:58 |

Christopher R. Wilson, 21, recently pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony robbery allegation and awaits sentencing in 25th Judicial District Court.
The guilty plea marks the 21st Crips-connected conviction - all but one of which came without trial - in a two-year fight mounted by 25th Judicial District Attorney Heather Miller, Seguin Police Chief Kevin Kelso and Sheriff Arnold Zwicke in an effort to curtail drug and gang-related violence in Seguin and Guadalupe County and essentially take back the streets on behalf of law-abiding citizens.
Miller ran for office in 2008 under her former, married name of Heather Hollub on a platform promising to go after drug dealers and violent criminals, and Kelso arrived from Victoria that same year to find a gang war simmering on the streets of Seguin whose traces could be found in a series of violent incidents that included home invasions, aggravated assaults, sexual assaults and drive-by shootings.
Much violent crime and nearly all property crime can be connected to drug abuse, and Miller, Kelso and Zwicke decided the time was long past to take the gangs on directly.
"It was really coming to the forefront right when I got here," Kelso said. "We had home invasions. These groups of gang-bangers were coming to homes and robbing and assaulting the people in them. It seemed like every other weekend, there was a drive-by shooting or someone getting stabbed or assaulted. We weren't getting any help because in many cases, the victims themselves were gang-bangers, and wouldn't cooperate with us. We got good response from our community and as things started progressing, we were getting intel and putting more and more cases together, and we were able to begin filing charges on them."
They also began jailing the suspects - many held on bails set by former Seguin police officer and now Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell Hunter of upwards of a million dollars - in an effort to keep the most violence-prone defendants off the street for the safety of the community.
Then, Kelso's worst fears were realized on the night of Oct. 16, 2009, when what police say was a band of the Hoover 74 Crips attempted a drive-by shooting at an Anderson Street home associated with members of the Mexican Mafia in retaliation for an earlier dispute.
Garland Taylor, 21, was one of the people in the suspect vehicle in what became a violent shootout. He was shot in the head and died in a San Antonio hospital a few days later.
Among 14 people on both sides of the confrontation booked on allegations of engaging in organized crime and aggravated assault, alleged Mexican Mafia members Michael DelaGarza, 33, and David Buitron Jr., 37, were also booked on first-degree felony murder charges in warrants delivered to them in Guadalupe County Jail.
Ultimately, neither was indicted on the murder charge because investigators learned they fired back at Taylor, who authorities say was a member of the Crips, in self-defense. But Buitron pleaded guilty to being a habitual felony offender and former Guadalupe County District Attorney and now 2nd 25th Judicial District Judge W.C. Kirkendall sentenced him to 38 years in state prison. DelaGarza pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Kelso acknowledged that his detectives, led by Criminal Investigation Division Lt. Jerry Hernandez, pulled out all the stops in their investigation of the Anderson Street shooting.
Kelso took some heat for what some considered heavy-handed tactics by his officers. Some said detectives used the Taylor killing as an excuse to arbitrarily round up young men whose crimes had been relatively minor, and tar them with the "organized crime" label.
Far from it, Kelso said. All the arrests at Anderson Street came after detectives showed Hunter or other judges probable cause in accordance with the law.
"We've gotten feedback in the community that we're trying to put as many people in jail in this investigation as we could," Kelso said. "Basically, what we were doing was just the opposite. We're dealing with a community problem - criminal gang activity and the crimes that go with it. It wasn't the job of these detectives to prove anyone innocent or guilty. It was to find out what happened, and unfortunately, Garland Taylor couldn't tell us."
While the police fought the Crips in the streets, the investigation and prosecution became a top priority of Miller's office, which was forced to shift resources it might rather have used elsewhere to support the gang investigation mounted by the SPD and augmented by the sheriff's office, which participated in a number of operations and made its own arrests connected to the case.
Miller compiled a target list of 22 Crips members, prospects or associates and hung the list up in her office.
She assigned her first assistant, Larry Bloomquist, to head the prosecution team, aided by Assistant district attorneys Bill Squires III, Tom Mitchell and Dave Willborn.
Ultimately, all of the defendants save one, former Seguin High School football star Marcus Richardson, pleaded guilty to the charges.:Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

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