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Miami Turf War Taking Toll on Gangs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

To be young, male and standing on an inner-city street corner here has recently become a prescription for death.

In what police say is a vicious turf war between rival drug gangs, five men with links to the cocaine and marijuana trade have been gunned down this month, 12 since August.

In the latest outbreak, police said, a would-be assassin driving through the streets of Miami’s Overtown neighborhood Tuesday morning was so eager to fire at his street-corner targets that he did not bother to roll down the window of his own car before unleashing a volley from a high-powered assault weapon. Three people were wounded, including an 18-year-old reported to be in critical condition Wednesday.

“In this game, territory is worth a lot more than human life. And a body count is a good thing,” said Miami police Lt. Bill Schwartz. “This is one of the worst turf wars in recent memory.”

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In response to the surge in drive-by violence, police and FBI announced “Operation Draw the Line,” in which 25 officers have been put on patrol in the predominantly African American communities of Liberty City and Overtown. “It’s a small group of heavily armed, highly dangerous individuals,” Miami Police Chief Bill O’Brien said at a news conference. “They need to be taken off the street.”

The reputed gangster police would most like to take off the streets is Anthony Dejuan Fail, a 25-year-old with the nickname “Little Bo.” Police said Fail began trying to claim drug sales territory from the John Does gang after its leader was arrested last month.

Since then, the streets have been littered with bodies and shell casings, often from semiautomatic AK-47s. Near the body of alleged John Doe member Glenn Robinson, 31, shot to death Saturday while riding his bicycle, police said they found 67 shell casings.

Among others gunned down recently were Fail’s girlfriend and a cousin. “It’s gone beyond a business deal with him now,” said Schwartz, “to a personal vendetta.”

After posting a $6,000 reward for information leading to his capture, police said they have received more than 350 tips on Fail’s whereabouts. And his face is familiar, thanks to an oft-aired convenience store surveillance video in which Fail allegedly is seen firing pistol shots at a rival who leaps over the counter to escape the fusillade. The gunman wounded the 8-year-old daughter of the store’s owner.

Police said they almost nabbed him early Wednesday when a Miami police officer spotted him getting into a car in Liberty City. The officer gave chase but quit when a rear tire on his patrol car blew out. FBI agents and a police SWAT team later surrounded a house, but Fail was gone.

“This man does not have any respect for human life,” Schwartz said. “He is considered extremely dangerous and violent.” Fail has been named in warrants charging him with attempted murder.

The spate of drug gang shootings in Miami mirrors a similar outbreak in Los Angeles, where seven people have been slain in the last three weeks in what police say are battles over turf. Many of the shootings can be traced to the Rollin’ 60s gang, police said.

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And as in Los Angeles, the slayings in Miami come at the end of a year in which the overall homicide rate is down.


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