New York police swooped through parts of Harlem arresting dozens of members of three gangs locked in a violent turf war in what officials on Wednesday described as the largest such indictment of gang associates in the city's history.
In all, 103 people from three gangs -- 3Staccs, Make It Happen Boys and Money Avenue -- face conspiracy, attempted murder, gang assault and weapons charges in connection with two homicides and 50 other shootings, officials said. Some of those charged were already in the city's jails and are accused of using a variety of social media to plot their rivals' deaths and to boast of their own prowess, officials said.
"With the arrests and indictments of these individuals, the New York City police department, along with our partners from the Manhattan district attorney's office, have permeated three major gangs that overwhelmed the streets of West Harlem," Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said at an afternoon news conference. "The many law-abiding members of the communities afflicted by this violence are now walking on safer streets."
According to officials, the indictments stemmed in part from an investigation into the 2011 murder of Tayshana Murphy, an 18-year-old high-school basketball star, who was shot three times on Sept. 11, 2011. Her murder came after a long evening of fighting between the gangs, prosecutors said at the time.
Tyshawn Brockington, 24, and Robert Cartagena, were convicted for Murphy's murder and sentenced to between 25 years and life in prison, but investigators saw the killing as part of a pattern of violence around two public housing projects in West Harlem, the Manhattanville and Grant houses.
"The deadly and dangerous feud between the Manhattanville and Grant Houses dates back decades," said Dist. Atty. Cyrus R. Vance Jr. "In the last four years, it has escalated into a bloody turf war marked by violence for the sake of violence. To build a case this extensive, prosecutors and investigators analyzed more than 40,000 calls from correctional facilities, screened hundreds of hours of surveillance video, and reviewed more than a million social media pages."
According to the indictments, between approximately Jan. 1, 2010 and May 30, 2014, the defendants in the three gangs attempted to kill one another, bought and possessed illegal firearms and ammunition and physically assaulted rivals. The goal was to protect the gangs' territories from various rivals.
The indictments also allege that the defendants used hundreds of Facebook posts and direct messages, cellphone videos, and calls made from Rikers Correctional Facility, the city's jail, to plot the deaths of rival gang members. "Gang members also used social media to publicize and claim credit for acts of violence and publicly disrespect and denigrate rival gang members," it was charged.