The US attorney in Colorado announced Friday that several members of the Bloods violent street gang were charged federally under a new collaborative forensics-led investigation.
"Nothing tears the fabric of a community like violence," US Attorney Bob Troyer said at a press conference. "Violence breeds fear, stifles education, it destroys families, it paralyzed neighborhoods and it cripples America's promise of freedom and opportunity."
The investigation was part of a new federal criminal statute called VICAR, or Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering. The gang investigation was the first time the statute has been used in the Denver metro area.
Law enforcement used forensic tools to identify the most violent gang members, including shell-casing analysis, acoustic gunshot detection technology and cell phone and social media exploitation.
"VICAR is a federal prosecution tool that's perfect both for improving safety in a community and restoring that community's trust in the work we do as law enforcement," US Attorney Bob Troyer said. "VICAR allows targeted prosecution of a violent enterprise and its members who are most responsible for that violence. It makes state violent crimes like murder and robbery and assault with dangerous weapons federal crimes when they are committed in connection with the racketeering enterprise of a gang."
The VICAR indictment alleges the Bloods are an enterprise whose business is violence, including murder. The indictment charges five counts of violent crimes in aid of racketeering, including conspiracy to commit two different murders, an attempted murder and two different assaults with a dangerous weapon. The indictment also charges three counts of using firearms to commit violence in aid of the racketeering enterprise and three counts of unlawful gun possession.
The suspects being charged in the VICAR indictment are: Jason Harris, 20, Isaac Jonathan Hernandez, 20, Xavier Davon Claypool, 20, Michael Byrd, 22, Theophus Williams, 20, Keandre Mims, 22, Bryce Wilhite, 22 and Aaron Wilhite, 22.
Some of these suspects face mandatory minimum sentences between seven and ten years, with maximum sentences of up to 20 years. Others face penalties of not more than ten years in federal prison.
Eight of the gang members will be prosecuted federally in four metro area violent crimes between Nov. 2014 and Aug. 2015. Two of the crimes, one in Douglas County and one in Arapahoe County, were home invasions using weapons. The two other crimes were shootings in Denver. The first was a man who was shot in the back while he was sitting in his car in front of an apartment complex and the second was the shooting of a house occupied by 11 people.
Nine additional felons in possession of firearms were previously indicted as part of the ATF's specific investigation in this violent gang: Brandon Laeraye Nelson, 28, Dedric Delaine Mayfield, 39, Derek Jerome Moore, 27, Isaiah Dumar Claypool, 25, Keon Anthony Nixon, 24, Michael Aaron Smith, 39, Michael Isiah Peirrie, 22, Michael Lee Sanders, 38 and Omari Tavon Martin, 20.