Cincinnati police seize guns in search warrant at suspected gang location

CINCINNATI – Police seized drugs and guns at a suspected gang hangout in Northside Thursday afternoon.

Police executed a search warrant at about 3:30 p.m. at Stephanie’s Hair Options and at Candy & More on Hamilton Avenue, where five guns were seized, said District 5 commander Capt. Paul Neudigate. The raid comes after several complaints of drug activity at the location and a shooting last October.

Authorities believe remnants of the Taliband gang were operating out of the candy shop and barbershop and peddling drugs throughout the area.

Mark Stubblefield Sr., 51, the owner of the barbershop, was arrested and booked into the Hamilton County Justice Center on charges of permitting drug abuse. Mark Stubblefield Jr., 32, was arrested on outstanding warrants.

Benny Stallworth, 32, was arrested and faces five counts of drug trafficking and one count of receiving stolen property, court records show. He also was arrested for possessing weapons under disability. Dominique Cunningham, 23, and Hasani Rowland, 37, were arrested and face charges of drug possession.

Both Stubblefield Sr. and Stubblefield Jr. were listed on the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence of known people involved in gang activity.

Authorities are also searching for Vernon Warner, 29, for nine counts of drug trafficking, District 5 investigators announced Friday afternoon.

“Our sources of information told us there was still gang activity going on here,” Neudigate told WCPO at the scene. “

Court records show that on Dec. 27, 2013, Cincinnati police officers observed Stubblefield Sr. permitting drug trafficking while maintaining ownership of the premises.

Since the October 2013 shooting, undercover officers have made several gun and drug purchases out of the two stores, Neudigate said. Over the course of the investigation, authorities bought six guns between the two locations. A total of six people have been detained, some with outstanding warrants, he said. 

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Authorities have also obtained temporary injunctions to board and close both stores at least for a few weeks, but Neudigate is hopeful a request for a long-term closure will be granted, “so we can truly eradicate these individuals from the Northside community,” he said.

Investigators “caught a break” a few months ago, leading to enhanced surveillance of the two stores. Neudigate, however, declined to elaborate what exactly the break was.

“While monitoring the activity associated with both locations, we came a across a break and resulted that in the beginning of an investigation since last year,” he said.

Over the course of the investigation, authorities bought crack cocaine and marijuana from the two stores on numerous occasions.

Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Ohio Investigative Unit assisted in the search warrant. OIU investigators were also looking into possible food stamp fraud, Neudigate said.

Last year, Phillip Smith was shot multiple times at Stephanie's Hair Options barbershop in broad daylight on Oct. 11 on Hamilton Avenue, in what police said was a targeted shooting. District 5 investigators arrested Tracy Washington on charges of felonious assault, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm while under disability. Police said Washington had at least one prior felony conviction at the time of the arrest.

A ruling in that case is still pending, court records show.

In 2008, Cincinnati police led an offensive against the Taliband gang of Northside. Current Assistant Chief David Bailey coordinated the department’s Taliband investigation, which led to the dismantling of the street gang and the incarceration of many of its members.

“We do have lingering pockets and residual individuals from those days,” Neudigate said. “Part of our efforts includes reinforcing gang-reduction efforts, and I think this is a prime example of those individuals that don’t seem to turn the corner.”

Gangs typically have their strongest foothold in some of the poorest areas of Cincinnati. About 50 gangs and 1,700 affiliated members operate in the city, officials said. Sixty-two percent of the city’s violent crime problem is attributable to less than one half of one percent of the population, data shows.

“We’re buying handguns out of these locations, and the

information that we have received indicates that these guys are not the ones going out and robbing but they are the ones facilitating it by providing guns to young people, and we do know we have an increasing amount of juvenile violence,” Neudigate said.

So far this year, there have been four juvenile homicide victims and four juveniles have been arrested in connection with a homicide, police records show.

Last year, there were 10 homicide victims 17 or younger.

READ: Crime and justice stories from Kareem Elgazzar
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