Indianapolis—Indianapolis public safety leaders put more than a dozen alleged gang members behind bars Thursday, including Terrell Jackson, 18, the brother of Brandon Johnson, who they say is the ringleader of the gang.
The family of Brandon Johnson is now crying foul, but authorities argue the arrests are part of a much larger crackdown on violent gangs, known as "project safe neighborhoods".
"This is the first such investigation. It will not be the last," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.
The crackdown announced Thursday specifically targeted a gang known as the "pop it off boys". The prosecutor said a street crime task force made up of officers within IMPD and the Marion County Sheriff's department sought 22 alleged gang members on 46 different charges. On Thursday they arrested 15 of them for a range of crimes involving drug dealing and violent crime that took place on the east side of Indianapolis.
Investigators say the "pop it off boys" were loosely centered on Post Road from 21 St. to 38th St.
"We took some violent people off the streets today. It's a safer community on the northeast side." said IMPD Commander Scott Haslar.
According to police the ringleader of the gang was Terrell Jackson, who faces 24 criminal counts from car jacking to dealing narcotics. Jackson is the half brother of Brandon Johnson, the teenager who made national headlines after bringing a police brutality case against police last summer. Terrel Jackson was arrested at his sister's apartment Thursday morning during a series of 18 simultaneous raids.
"It looks like I was hit by a tornado," said Keyontay Jackson, who was there during her brother's arrest.
Keyontay says she and others at the apartment were taken downtown before being cleared by police. She told Fox 59 she was never told why her brother was being arrested, and said she is now going to be evicted after officers tore down her door and ransacked her apartment.
"It's just harassment. There was no need to come in and do it like this. I was asleep. They came in and they kicked my door in. They threw a bomb," Keyontay Jackson said, in reference to a flash bang officers tossed into the room before the arrest.
Mmoja Ajabu, a spiritual advisor to the family says the family feels targeted ever since Brandon Johnson filed his brutality case in May 2010. In March police executed a similar search in the home of the boys' mother. In the process officers arrested Brandon Johnson, Terrell Jackson and Miketavious Jackson on weapons and gang related charges.
"This past Monday, the court threw those charges out," Ajabu said. "Now here we are two days later and they're trying to come up with other crimes."
Though the Marion County Prosecutor did decide not to pursue gang charges in response to that March search, public safety leaders say they had more than enough reason for the Thursday arrest of Terrell Jackson, citing the long list of charges he now faces.
As for Brandon Johnson, he is not charged in relation to the crackdown, and police say project safe neighborhood is in no way related to his brutality case.
"Absolutely not. We were not targeting anyone individually," Haslar said. "Mr. Johnson, we came into contact with him, I do believe today, but he was not arrested nor was his mother. I heard that was out there and that's not true."
The incidents specifically described in the probable cause affidavit for Thursday's arrests, date back to May 26th of 2010, which is just after Brandon Johnson filed his police brutality complaint. However, the affidavit does mention that investigators linked criminal activity back to crimes committed as far back as 2007.