Thirty-six days in the fall of 2010 show how quickly street gang violence can sweep innocent victims into its path, federal prosecutors in Syracuse said Tuesday. A member of the Bricktown gang stabbed a member of the V-NOT gang Oct. 23 of that year at a North Geddes Street bar. That night, a V-NOT member retaliated by firing 21 shots from an AK-47 assault rifle into the home of the Bricktown member. Back and forth they went until Nov. 26, when V-NOT member Kahari Smith, 26, fired shots from a car on Interstate 81 into a car carrying Bricktown members and their friend, former Henninger High School athlete Kihary Blue, prosecutors said. Blue was killed. He was not a member of a gang, police said. Two days later, Bricktown member Saquan Evans targeted the wrong gang for retaliation, firing into the parked van of 110 gang member Rashaad Walker Sr., prosecutors said. The shot killed his toddler son, Rashaad Walker Jr., who was in a car seat. “What started as a barroom brawl ended with the death of a high school basketball star and a 20-month-old child,” U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said Tuesday. On Tuesday, police charged 11 members of V-NOT, including Kahari Smith, with violating the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act by using violence to control their drug trade and territory on the far South Side of Syracuse over eight years. “The city of Syracuse is a much safer place right now than it was yesterday,” Syracuse police Chief Frank Fowler said. He called V-NOT a “very dangerous street gang.” Bricktown gang members, including Evans, were arrested in a street gang roundup last year. View full sizeEllen M. Blalock / The Post-Standard Supervisor U.S.Marshall Joe Ciciareeli stands beside a display board showing the timeline of alleged criminal activities by the V-NOT and Bricktown gangs. A federal indictment accused the V-NOT members of murder, robbery, drug-trafficking and witness tampering. V-NOT was the sixth gang in nine years that the Syracuse Gang Violence Task Force has targeted for federal prosecution, arresting a total of 90 suspected gang members. As in the other cases, V-NOT members were charged with federal crimes because they often carry longer sentences than state crimes. Prosecutors must show only that a defendant committed two overt acts to prove his or her participation in the criminal enterprise. V-NOT often used 15- and 16-year-old children to sell its drugs to crack cocaine junkies they referred to as “licks,” the indictment said. The arrests, made by more than 100 law enforcement officers, included the first female gang member in the Syracuse federal cases, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Katko. That defendant, Riadda Travet, 22, was accused of threatening a witness who was going to testify against another V-NOT member, the indictment said. Besides Smith and Travet, the others charged as V-NOT gang members were: Habakkuk Nickens, 26; Jeffrey Powell, 27; Kenneth Jackson, 27; Titus Nickens, 28; Christopher Mike, 27; Jermeere McKinnon, 23; Nathan King, 21; Dwayne Hester, 27; and Donald R. Johnson Jr., 24. The Nickenses are brothers, as are Powell and Jackson, Katko said. Along with Smith, the indictment identified two other V-NOT gang members who were in the vehicle when Blue was shot: Nickens and Powell. An Onondaga County Court jury convicted Evans in March of murdering Walker Jr. V-NOT, which stands for Valley (N-words) On Top, controlled a territory on the South Side, with West Newell Street as the northern border, police said. The defendants all pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon when they were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate David Peebles. As a clerk read the 16-page indictment aloud, two or three women in the spectator area gasped frequently and slammed their hands in disgust. Federal crackdowns Since 2003, the Syracuse Gang Violence Task Force has arrested 90 suspected members of six street gangs, including the 11 charged Tuesday with violating the federal Racketeer-Influenced Corrupt Organizations law: 2003: Boot Camp, 24 members charged. 2005: Elk Block, 16 members. 2006: Brighton Brigade, 14 members. 2009: 110, 12 members. 2011: Bricktown, 13 members. 2012: V-NOT, 11 members. The gang task force, consisting of seven Syracuse police officers, two state troopers, an Onondaga County sheriff’s deputy, two deputy U.S. marshals and two Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents, will be on the lookout for its next gang, Fowler said. “Their hands are free,” he said as a warning to other gang members. “You have an opportunity today to get it, and if you don’t, then guess what? We’re coming after you.” The indictment lists 12 shootings that V-NOT members carried out either to protect their drug trade and territory or to retaliate against rival gangs. Among the acts listed in the indictment: • Titus Nickens shot a rival gang member in the stomach in May 2007 with a 9mm handgun that was involved in five previous shootings in the V-NOT gang area. • In 2009, Powell shot an Elk Block gang member in the head. • On Dec. 24 of last year, Mike and V-NOT gang member Sherman Jackson tried to rob rival gang members in the area of South Alvord and Highland streets. Mike hit one of the gang members with a .22-caliber gun and then was shot in return. Jackson was stabbed to death. The indictment identified 321 Shirley Drive as a place where V-NOT gang members routinely congregated. In November 2010, four people were playing cards in the garage of that house were wounded when a man let himself into the garage and opened fire.
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