Cops and prosecutors on Tuesday unveiled two indictments against 17 young Brooklynites charged with a rash of violent felonies, as part of a tripartite alliance of local gangs who teamed up in order to expand their footprint and territory in the borough.
The youths are charged with a hodgepodge of brutal acts up to and including murder and conspiracy to commit murder, related to shooting incidents that killed four people, including innocent bystanders, and injured 10 others.
The defendants, 16 men and one woman, range in age from 17 to 23, and most were teenagers at the time their alleged crimes occurred. The investigation, referred to as “Operation Triple Threat,” dates back to March 2019 and includes counts from as recently as a few months ago.
“One of the most disturbing aspects of this case is the age of many of the defendants in this indictment. Some were as young as 14 or 15 years old when the indictment was started,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez at a Jan. 4 press conference announcing the indictments. “That is heartbreaking, that some of our youngest residents of our county are involved in this gang and gun violence.”
“It’s devastating,” he continued. “And it’s truly destructive.”
Three street crews with geographic bases all over the borough teamed up, Gonzalez alleged, to configure a formidable combined gang with greater numbers and more territory, which would provide members “more access to guns, money, and women.” With those perks came more responsibilities, as each crew adopted the other crews’ enemies as their own, which Gonzalez said only led to greater violence on the streets.
“This alliance not only brought these three gangs together and created one bigger gang, but it also increased the amount of violence,” Gonzalez said. “The collective rivalries caused an increase in the cycle of violence that we’ve seen in Brooklyn, and also a number of retaliations that take place when a shooting happens.”
The gang is known as YPF, a combination of FNO (Fort N—-s Only/Fear No One, based in Fort Greene), PPP (Pistol Packing Pitkin, based in East New York), and YAWAH (Young and Wild and Hustling, based in Brownsville). As a collective unit, they touted about 200 members, Gonzalez said.
YPF’s murderous portfolio includes a shooting incident in September at MetroTech Commons, right across the street from the DA’s office. In that incident, FNO’s Giovanni Bennett, 17, allegedly fired a gun from a Razor scooter in broad daylight at a former FNO member who had since left the gang. He missed, instead hitting a 19-year-old New York University student uninvolved in gang rivalry.
In another incident in October 2020, reputed FNO members Iquan Warlick and Nakhai Addison, ages 15 and 16, allegedly went to a bodega on New Lots Avenue in East New York in search of a rival gang member. Their target was waiting for food with his friend, 18-year-old college student Sherard McKoy, who was not involved with a gang. When Warlick and Addison arrived, McKoy attempted to run away but was shot by Warlick, eventually succumbing to his injuries after limping from the scene. The two then started to leave, before Addison went back to the store and fired shots at the hiding rival gang member.
Warlick was also allegedly involved in a deadly incident a month later, where one person was killed and six were injured at a sweet-sixteen party on Albany Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The DA says Warlick traveled to East New York with George Risher Jr. and two unidentified collaborators, where the party was taking place and gang adversaries were believed to be in attendance. One of the unidentified members allegedly shot at a group near the venue, striking someone in the leg, at which point the party was relocated to Bed-Stuy.
When the crew entered the building, two of them went up the stairs and began shooting at party guests on the building’s third floor, killing 20-year-old Daijyonna Long, who was visiting from Virginia. Warlick and another conspirator stayed on the first floor, shooting into an elevator at a suspected rival, who survived the ordeal despite being shot at five times.
Gonzalez decried what he described as a “culture” among the youths in question celebrating gang activity, and specifically gang violence, pointing to Snapchat videos obtained by the DA’s office wherein the youths showed off their firearms; one even posted a video where they put their handgun up against a dog’s face. The youths were also recruiting even younger children into the crew, with some going for those as young as 11-year-old, Gonzalez said.
The DA emphasized that almost all the youths charged in the indictments had committed “multiple substantive acts,” and were not being swept up in a dragnet on flimsy circumstances as has often been seen in past gang raids, like the notorious Bronx 120 case where numerous defendants were roped into a federal gang prosecution on pretenses as tenuous as social media posts. Gonzalez said just being part of a gang was not enough to be indicted in this instance.
“These are not the old school investigations you used to hear about where a bunch of people were rounded up simply because they were involved in a gang or social media,” Gonzalez said in response to a question from Brooklyn Paper. “These are people who have actually committed acts of violence, that’s how we’ve done it in Brooklyn.”
The one defendant not charged with specific, substantive acts of violence was “integral” to the conspiracy to commit such acts, Gonzalez said.
The DA says that that a targeted approach of zeroing in on those responsible for violence has had a measurable effect on crime and violence in the borough: he showcased a graph showing the number of shootings in the borough rising in 2020 and early 2021, as has been well documented, before precipitously declining after prosecutors could start re-empaneling grand juries, after which the DA’s office initiated charges in three major gang takedowns.
“Incapacitating street crews has a measurable effect on public safety in the communities where takedowns take place,” he said. Last week, the DA’s office released data showing homicides and shootings decreased in 2021 compared to the uncharacteristically deadly 2020, bucking citywide trends; the top prosecutor claims the focus on the most violent offenders, as well as continued outreach and services in those areas after violence occurs, is responsible for that drop.
Mayor Eric Adams, who joined Gonzalez and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell at the press conference, praised the DA and the police for their work and repeated a common line of his, that a focus on combatting “gangs and guns” will meaningfully drive down crime and disorder.
“Three gang takedowns brought down our crime in this city,” Adams said. “I’ve said this over and over again, it’s the gangs and the guns. That is the problem. Everyday New Yorkers in this borough of 2.6 million people were held hostage by three gang crews.”
“These guns were in the hands of bad people that did bad things to good people. The number of innocent bystanders is unbelievable, the devastation carried out in this city,” he continued. “You decimate a community’s ability to believe in being safe when you have violence of this magnitude.”
The mayor laid out an approach to fighting crime under the slogan “intervention and prevention,” which encompasses diligently working to take violent offenders off the street while also working to identify and rectify problems within neighborhoods that lead people down a path to violence.
“I would bet you they have learning disabilities, I would bet you they have dyslexia,” Hizzoner said. “I would bet you they may come from foster care families, I would bet you that they may have been brought up in a criminal environment and lived in poverty, may even be homeless like 100,000 plus children in our city. I bet you they live in communities where they don’t have high-speed broadband and WiFi.”
Most of the defendants in the case were under 18 at the time of their alleged offenses. The DA told Brooklyn Paper in an interview that the cases will go before the “youth part” of State Supreme Court, and that some of the cases, particularly those involving gun possession, reckless endangerment, or assault, could be adjudicated in family court, but those accused of murder or attempted murder will not be eligible to have their cases tried in family court due to the nature of their offenses.
The five defendants facing the most serious charges could face life in prison, he said, while most of the others could face up to 25 years.
“If you fire a gun in this county,” Gonzalez said, “you’re gonna pay a steep price.”