The Maryland U.S. attorney’s office has announced a sweeping indictment of 21 people who prosecutors say were members of a violent Cherry Hill gang that is responsible for13 killings and 21 shootings.
The Maryland U.S. attorney’s office has announced a sweeping indictment of 21people who prosecutors say were members of a violent Cherry Hill gang that is responsible for 13 killings and 21shootings dating to 2002.
A grand jury indictment unsealed Friday says the defendants, ages 20 to 38, were members of the Hillside Enterprise, which operated out of the South Baltimore neighborhood, selling drugs and committing acts of violence all over the region, including homicides, shootings, home invasions and beatings.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and other drug offenses. If convicted, each faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. Though they are not charged with murder, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said, the indictments specifically allege that 11 of the defendants were involved in killings and they face enhanced sentences.
“That’s significant because one of the challenges we have in Baltimore, and it’s true in many places in the country, is that it’s extremely difficult to prove murder cases against drug-dealing organizations,” Rosenstein said.
Since 2013, Baltimore police and federal authorities teamed up to investigate gangs in the Cherry Hill area, and have indicted at least 35 members of Up da Hill, Little Spelman and Coppin Court organizations.
According to the latest indictment, many of the killings and shootings were retaliations against rival gang Up da Hill. Several victims were innocent bystanders, including Tracey Bowers, who was killed in Lansdowne in 2009, and Yolanda Johnson, killed in Cherry Hill in 2013, the indictment said.
Hillside members often sold drugs — powder and crack cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and marijuana — around Cherry Hill, the indictment says.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Smith, who worked on the Hillside case, said that after the 2013 indictments, the neighborhood went more than 700 days without a shooting.
Smith, who is about to retire from the office, said such indictments have a greater impact on violence because they target an entire organization.
“If you take out entire groups, you can have an impact,” she said.
One of the defendants, Lemar Williams, is believed to be connected to three killings, officials said, including the January fatal shooting of Isahia Bonner, who was seated at a kitchen table inside a home in the 400 block of Roundview Road.
Williams’ father, Warren Williams, is a lead “violence interrupter” with Safe Streets, a Baltimore health department program that uses released felons or ex-gang members to prevent violence.
Reached by phone Friday, Warren Williams said only, “I have nothing to do with that.”
Thirteen of the defendants are in custody, while eight are considered fugitives.