February 22, 2018
Contact: SA Debbie Webber
Phone Number: (504) 840-1100
Major Gang Arrests In Greater Little Rock Area Highlights Pioneering Collaborative State, Local, And Federal Violence Reduction Initiative
New program, Project Safe Neighborhoods targets repeat offenders- DEA lead agency in Thursday’s operation
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Multiple gang members are among dozens of individuals arrested in a major law enforcement operation targeting violent criminals in central Arkansas. Thursday’s early-morning takedown highlights the coordinated work of federal, state, and local agencies to combat drug and gun crime in Little Rock, and is part of both new and continuing efforts by all law enforcement in the area to address the rise in violent crime.
Stephen G. Azzam, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New Orleans Field Office of the DEA and Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas announced today’s arrests, as well the unsealing of 13 indictments and two complaints charging 49 individuals with dozens of federal gun and drug-trafficking crimes. The indictments were presented as part of a collaborative violent-crime reduction initiative in the greater Little Rock area.
The overall operation, led by the DEA and assisted by the FBI, resulted in 21 people arrested on Thursday morning and is the product of the combined efforts of the law enforcement agencies comprising the GET Rock task force. Early Thursday morning hundreds of officers from multiple agencies executed arrest warrants for the charged suspects. Nine defendants remain fugitives. Included in the arrests were multiple members of Little Rock’s two dominant gangs-Bloods and Crips. Agents also executed 11 search warrants, which resulted in agents seizing 21 illegally possessed guns, body armor, 9.6 pounds of cocaine, 4 ounces of methamphetamine, 7.2 ounces of crack cocaine 12 ounces of marijuana, 5 grams of heroin, 293 ecstasy pills, and 93 pint bottles of promethazine cough syrup. Agents also seized approximately $50,000 in drug proceeds, 4 cars, and 1 motorcycle.
“Gangs use violence to try to assert a false sovereignty over our neighborhoods, but they will fail,” Attorney General Sessions said. “The Department of Justice is committed to reducing violent crime in America. That’s why we have restored our Project Safe Neighborhoods program, which customizes our crime reduction strategy in each of our 94 U.S. Attorney districts. Federal, state, and local law enforcement in Arkansas has prioritized dismantling gangs-and together we are producing results. Today’s arrests are the next steps toward taking back our streets.”
“These arrests should serve as a warning and send a clear message-we will relentlessly pursue these violent criminals and drug traffickers plaguing our communities and bring them to justice,” Special Agent-in-Charge Azzam said. “Our neighborhoods deserve to exist without fear and intimidation inflicted by violent drug gangs. These dangerous criminals arrested today were responsible for infesting our communities with more than drugs-they also threatened our citizens with guns and violence. The DEA stands here today with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, confident that we have dismantled these violent drug trafficking organizations and made the streets in these communities a safer place to live.”
“A team of over 250 agents and officers from law enforcement agencies across our state came together this morning to begin the process of dismantling violent gangs and removing dangerous people from the streets, with the goal of making our community a safer place,” Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas said. “These agents also took drugs and violent people off the street today-people we believe endanger the lives of law-abiding citizens and endanger the future of our children with their toxic influence. Since I took this position, I have said that targeting violent offenders will be a priority for this office, and we are committed to that priority. Today’s operation is a victory over gang, gun, and drug violence, but is just the start of what the combined resources of these law enforcement agencies can do.”
This operation is part of Project Safe (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
The DEA served as lead agency while working in conjunction with (Gang Enforcement Task Force) Rock during the operation. GET Rock was formed at the request of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson in response to the escalation in gang and gun violence in Little Rock, highlighted by the July 1, 2017, mass shooting at the Power Ultra Lounge in Little Rock that injured 28 people. Nine central Arkansas law enforcement agencies-the U.S. Attorney’s office, FBI, DEA, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & (ATF), U.S. Marshal’s Service, Little Rock Police (LRPD), Pulaski County Sherriff’s (PCSO), Arkansas State (ASP), and Arkansas Community Correction-comprise GET Rock, which is coordinated out of the FBI Little Rock field office and continues to serve as the clearinghouse for all gang-related law enforcement actions in Little Rock.
“With these arrests and indictments, we are serving notice that Arkansas will not tolerate the reign of terror by those who traffic in illegal drugs, illegal guns, and rule by intimidation,” Governor Hutchinson said. “I applaud the work of all of the agencies who participated in this investigation and dangerous round-up of suspects. Our newly formed GET Rock team has demonstrated that cooperation across agencies at all levels is an effective approach to identifying and apprehending gang members and others who threaten the lives of our citizens. These officers have taken great risks on our behalf, and I thank them on behalf of all those whose neighborhoods are a little safer today.”
On Thursday, 31 of the 49 defendants included in the operation are charged in two indictments. In 2017, law enforcement identified Clifton Thomas and Marvin Collins as founders of a local Bloods-affiliated gang, Real Hustlers (RHI). The gang, known to frequent the area of Monroe and Brown Streets in Little Rock, started as the Monroe Street Hustlers and changed its name to RHI due to mounting and unwanted attention from the LRPD. RHI, which promotes itself as an organization for rap artists, utilizes 5108 31st Street in Little Rock as a music studio, and as a location for distribution of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, oxycodone, and other controlled substances.
The mass shooting at Power Ultra Lounge was precipitated by the rivalry between RHI and the Wolfe Street Crips, which is a local Crips-affiliated gang in Little Rock. Police identified various RHI members as having participated in the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, and in subsequent retaliatory shootings involving Dewquan Johns, James Langford, Rodney Scott, Damien Young, and Edmond (all of whom are indicted as part of this operation), among several others.
The DEA, using court-authorized wiretaps of various phones, identified gang members and the drug and gun crimes the gang was committing. Charges in the Thomas indictment include conspiracies to distribute cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, felon in possession of firearms, and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. Included among the defendants is Bilal Johns Muhammad, identified as a long-time leader in RHI, and formerly the Monroe Street Hustlers. Two of Bilal Johns Muhammad’s sons-Bilal Sean Muhammad and Kain Jordan-were also indicted in the case.
The DEA and GET Rock also identified another 18 defendants as part of a drug trafficking organization headed by Robert Turpin III. The investigation revealed that Turpin was distributing ounce quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as thousands of oxycodone and (Xanax) pills in the central Arkansas area. Turpin was found to be importing pharmaceutical drugs from India for illicit distribution, and during the course of the conspiracy more than 150,000 pills were obtained and distributed.
Furthermore, the Turpin organization was responsible for the transportation and distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, pharmaceutical controlled substances and money to and from Texas, Massachusetts, and North Carolina using personal and commercial vehicles, the United States Postal Service and FedEx. This organization also trafficked in firearms and has engaged in firearm-related violence in the Little Rock area. Law enforcement agents carried out the operation that resulted in the arrests of 15 of the 18 indicted members of the Turpin organization on February 14, 2018.
Also arrested Thursday morning was Chris Alexander, a member of the Wolfe Street Crips and purported community activist who has promoted anti-gang and violence programs in Little Rock in the past. Alexander, along with fellow gang member Kenya Davis, who is still a fugitive, was indicted on marijuana conspiracy and distribution charges. Alexander was also charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking.
These cases were investigated by the DEA Little Rock District Office Task Force Group 2-composed of DEA special agents and task force officers from the ASP, PCSO, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Saline County Sheriff’s Office, and Benton Police Department. Also involved in the investigation was FBI, ATF, United States Marshals Service, LRPD, North Little Rock Police Department, Arkansas Community Corrections, and the Arkansas National Guard Counter-Drug Task Force.
Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.