Once 'dismantled' gang blamed for double murder
News4Jax follows up on last fall's arrest of 23 people identified as gang members
One week after police said a triple shooting that that left two women dead on a New Town street corner was the work of the PYC gang, News4Jax looks what happened to 23 members said to belong to that gang who were arrested six months ago.
Last October, in announcing Operation Dead End and nearly two dozen arrests, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said they had broken up the Pakistan Yulee Clique, which Sheriff John Rutherford described as one of the most powerful gangs in the city.
We learned last week that PYC is still active when police announced that one of its members, 25-year-old Sherika Edwards, was killed in a revenge shooting on Tyler Street. last Thursday evening. That shooting injured a second, 25-year-old gang member and took the life of an innocent bystander: Shelmika Felton, who was 34 years old and the mother of three children.
A check of jail records shows 16 of the 23 people arrested in October are still in jail and awaiting trial. Two are already convicted and in state prison. Charges were dropped on one man and others have served some time for drug violations and been released.
Put when you talk to people in the New Town neighborhood, you get a different story.
Stephen Willis said he knows many of those who were arrested, including his brother, Gary. He said his brother and others arrested in on Junior Lane -- a dead-end street that gave the operation its name -- are not gang members, and never were.
"They try to say he was part of that, but we ain't never had no gangs," Willis said. "Yeah, they were selling drugs, but there was no gang down here."
While talking to people near Eugene Butler Middle School, which is in New Town, we saw a lot of police activity. Officers appeared to be handing out flyers and asking questions.
This is also one area of town the Sheriff's Office said they are targeting with Operation Ceasefire.
Few people spoke about problems in the community. Many are just too afraid to talk publicly.
"I feel if you kill one person, you will kill me," Alphonso Jones said. "Fear is the problem."
Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei, who is prosecuting some of the Operation Dead End cases, talked about the gang problem with News4Jax earlier this week, but couldn't talk specifically about the PYC gang because of the pending cases.
"You very rarely get all members of the gang off the street at the same time, and because of that, they even know that if a few go, others might come around," Mantei said. "So I think there are multiple reasons why people may be reluctant to cooperate. Some just don't trust the process. It's unfortunate, but that's true, so they feel they are hostages in their own neighborhood."
Documents obtained about the case and PYC involvement spell out how it works. For example, a confidential informant said Cecil Bell, who authorities placed at the top of PYC's hierarchy, would supply the organization what it needed. For example, if members needed guns or drugs, he would be the one to get them the items.
Bell, 32, remains in jail awaiting trial on a list of charges including racketeering, possession of firearms by a convicted felon and drug possession.
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