Police and prosecutors unveiled a sweeping gang conspiracy indictment on Thursday against eighteen young men allegedly involved in a string of Brooklyn shootings, including the drive-by that killed a 1-year-old boy last summer.
The takedown focused on the Hoolie street gang, a crew of fewer than 100 young men primarily based around the Roosevelt Houses in Bed-Stuy, police said. Among those arrested was Dashawn Austin, who is accused of firing the stray bullet that killed 1-year-old Davell Gardner at a Bed-Stuy cookout last July.
According to the indictment, Austin, 25, and other Hoolie members, including Akeem Artis, traveled in a three-car caravan to carry out the shooting as part of an ongoing turf war, through at least September 2020, against the rival 900 Gang. That feud is believed to date back to a 2018 shooting by members of 900, which wounded Artis and killed another Hoolie member.
The chain of retaliatory violence has resulted in four murders and eight non-fatal shootings involving nine victims, prosecutors allege. Just six of the 13 total victims were believed to be members of a rival street gang.
“This is the type of gun violence that has made people fearful to leave their homes,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said at a press conference on Thursday.
He described the 63-count indictment as the culmination of a two-part investigation, which previously resulted in the arrests of 19 men allegedly involved in the 900 Gang earlier this year.
The young boy’s death jolted the city at a time when gun violence was climbing both city- and nationwide, prompting calls from community leaders for further action by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
In the nearly ten months since, gun violence has continued to rise in the city. Last month saw 149 shooting incidents, according to NYPD data, up from 56 in the same time period last year, and 62 in April of 2019.
Gonzalez also praised the NYPD for their investigative work, which relied on surveillance footage, forensics, social media and recorded telephone calls, police said. Ten of the defendants — who range in age from 19- to 33-years-old — are charged with second degree murder and face up to 25 years to life in prison.
The NYPD has previously faced criticism for major gang takedowns, with some law enforcement experts arguing that the actions sweep up young men who may face significant prison sentences for their indirect affiliations with a given crew.
James Essig, the NYPD chief of detectives, said on Thursday that the investigation had zeroed in on the “top of the food chain” of the gang.
“This case focused on violent street crime that literally terrorized Brooklyn neighborhoods,” he said. “By doing these types of cases we’ll be able to reduce the types of violence we’ll see in the months going forward.”