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VOL. 129 | NO. 242 | Friday, December 12, 2014

Court Order Details Spread of Violent Gang

By Bill Dries

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Fourteen years ago, a group of eight teenagers who lived on Burnham Street in Frayser tried to join the Vice Lords street gang and were rejected.

They became the FAM Mob street gang.

And according to a petition filed in Shelby County Environmental Court this week by the Multi-Agency Gang Unit to secure the city’s two latest no-gang zones, the rejection fueled violence that gang unit officers say have been a large part of the gang since its founding.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and other leaders of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit announce the city’s latest no-gang zones Wednesday at the Ridgecrest Apartments in Frayser.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

“They are just violent. I think they’ve made it clear they are very reckless and I don’t think have any limits to the level of violence they will commit,” said Ray Lepone, chief prosecutor of the gang unit. “We’re talking about drive-by shootings, shooting into homes, shooting in residential neighborhoods and committing homicides and robberies. Even when they are not highly organized, the members of FAM Mob are known for just pulling triggers, frankly. A lot of the violent crimes in my unit in North Memphis stem from that gang.”

The Ridgecrest Apartments on Rangeline Road and the Greenbriar Apartments on Dellwood Avenue are areas where members of the FAM Mob gang named in the court order signed by Judge Larry Potter are specifically prohibited from gathering in public for any reason.

“It means that members of the FAM Mob – the 50 that have been identified by the officers of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit – those 50 members of the FAM Mob are not welcome, not wanted on the property,” said Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

She made the announcement Wednesday, Dec. 10, in the Ridgecrest Apartments complex. The violent street gang dominates the much larger Frayser, North Memphis and North Shelby County areas, according to officials of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit.

But Weirich said for now the zone is limited to the apartment complexes because of their central roles in the gang and the ability for law enforcement to better enforce the terms of the civil court order that bans activities that are not criminal outside of the court order.

Weirich said gang members refer to the two apartment complexes as “Iraq” and “Afghanistan.”

“That is the level of violence,” she added. “That is the level of despicability that we are dealing with with these gang members.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said the city is committed to enforcing the no-gang zone in the two apartment complexes.

“Our army is just as big as their army,” he said. “We’re not going to set a withdrawal date.”

The gang unit sought the civil court order following a 1 1/2-year investigation documenting violent and other crimes by the gang.

The Ridgecrest Apartments quickly became “headquarters” to the gang shortly after its founding. It is four blocks from Trezevant High School.

As the gang and its turf grew, the Greenbriar Apartments became another stronghold, four blocks from Frayser High, as well as the nearby 2 Star Grocery, which is also covered in the no-gang zone for the Greenbriar.

The gang also took over Denver Park, farther east, in 2013 “in order to make a name for itself,” the gang unit said in its petition.

“The gang threatened the children that frequented that park and their parents,” the petition reads.

Police retook the park with a raid in which gang unit investigators, including county and federal authorities as well as city authorities, got their best information that started the investigation.

It led to criminal charges in several cases, the federal case against the reputed head of the gang and the no-gang zone action.

One of the pending criminal cases is the August 2013 murder of David Santucci in which Santucci was robbed and shot to death while walking in the South Main district Downtown. Gang member Dondre Johnson is charged with Santucci’s murder.

The court order follows the Nov. 20 indictment of reputed FAM Mob leader James Earl McCracken.

McCracken is among the 50 FAM Mob members named in the court order covering the no-gang zone. He is being held on the federal charges without bond.

McCracken is not one of the eight founders of the gang. Six of the eight founders still hold key leadership positions, according to the gang unit’s petition to Environmental Court. One other founder is dead.

McCracken faces a federal charge of interfering with interstate commerce by threat or violence.

The charge is connected to the July 2011 robbery and murder of Bari Graham at Hunters Ridge Apartments in the Scenic Hills section of Frayser.

The first no-gang zone was set out in a court order in the fall of 2011 for members of the Rolling 90s Riverside Crips in the Riverside section of South Memphis.

A second no-gang zone was announced in October for members of the Dixie Homes Murda Gang in the area that includes Legends Park, where the old Dixie Homes public housing project once stood.

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