Latest sweep in 9-month gang investigation nets arrests of 'Public Enemy Nos. 1 and 2'

Targeted enforcement leads to arrests

CINCINNATI – The latest arrest sweep of suspected gang members this week stems from a homicide investigation and a large-scale sweep late last year, police sources said.

Spanning the last nine months, authorities have executed two sweeps of suspected gang members, netting 27 arrests and dozens of guns off the streets. The latest sweep, conducted Thursday morning, arrested key Tot Lot gang leader Julius White, 24, who supplied the gang network with heroin, said Assistant Police Chief David Bailey.

Investigators discovered members of the criminal organization regularly conspired to commit several different violent offenses, including unlawfully possessing firearms and transferring guns among various members of the criminal organization, officials said.

The investigation also discovered that members of the gang distributed narcotics, mainly heroin, and that members of different gangs acted together on numerous occasions to commit organized thefts, burglaries and robberies.

Police began investigating White after he was arrested in connection with the killing of 14-year-old Dwayne Lamarr Lewis Jr. in South Fairmount in October. Lewis was shot four times, twice in the head and once in the arm and leg, according to the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office. Lewis was unarmed at the time of the killing. Four days later, White was arrested for aggravated murder.

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A tipster told investigators White might have confronted Lewis, accusing him of an attempted robbery -- but authorities said there is no information to suggest that was a possible motive for the killing.

During the course of the homicide investigation, officials learned White was the kingpin of the heroin trade in the West End. The investigation also included several other gangs and affiliations.

Prior to his arrest, Bailey said White had just returned from a trip to Paris, France, where he likely arranged for the shipment of drugs.

In early December, police arrested Shamsudin Pickens, 33, in Sharonville, who was already known to police as a suspected gang member and enforcer for a gang that operates in Over-the-Rhine.

Authorities have now arrested two key leaders of two separate gangs working jointly together: The Lot Tot gang and an unnamed gang operating in the 1700 block of Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine. Several associates moved to the West end from Vine Street in Summer 2013, forging new relationships among different gangs.

“From my perspective, we’ve just dismantled Public Enemy Nos. 1 and 2,” said Bailey, commander of the criminal investigations bureau.

Pickens was arrested on Valdosta Drive in Sharonville and charged with nine counts of heroin drug trafficking on Dec. 4, police records show. He is being held in the Hamilton County jail on $1.1 million bond.

“What we believe he’s done and what we can prove he’s done, we’re not there yet,” Bailey said. “We’re going to get there, once we start talking to everyone involved, Mr. Pickens is going to end up with a lot more charges.”

Bailey believes Pickens is implicated in a number of homicides, either by pulling the trigger himself or by ordering killings.

“He was either directly or indirectly involved in a number of homicides, the amount of which I really can’t tell you – I don’t know,” Bailey said.

He said police have never been able to find witnesses or those who have been shot that are still alive are unwilling to cooperate. Police played video from Pickens’ December arrest while he was riding in the back of a Sharonville police cruiser. He described himself as a “livewire, who doesn’t go to jail.”

“I’ve had (people) touched and everything,” Pickens explained to the Sharonville officer. Touched meaning killed or ordered to the bodily harm of a person to send a message, police said.

Pickens has attended Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) meetings and “has heard the message, but he continuously resisted the message,” said Assistant Chief James Whalen. Recently, the city has re-energized CIRV, a program which helps known gang members make changes in their lives.

Police also arrested four of Pickens’ contacts on federal drug, conspiracy and gun charges. They are suspected in numerous robberies in the West End, said Assistant Police Chief James Whalen.

One of those who was arrested was Jeffrey Edmerson, who police believe supervised the distribution of heroin in the West End, south of Liberty Street, east of Linn Street, north of York Street and West of Winchell Avenue, Whalen said.

Investigation, sweeps reflect targeted enforcement

Despite some calling for a return to zero-tolerance policing, or casting a dragnet over a community and arresting people arbitrarily, the latest targeted investigation is a reflection of targeted enforcement strategies by police.

“Sixty-two percent of our violent crime problem is attributable to less than one half of one percent of our population,” Whalen said. “That causes us to narrow our focus

and build these kinds of cases.

“We learned lessons throughout the years of swarming neighborhoods and what we wind up doing is intervening in the lives of law-abiding citizens. There’s simply no value in that.”

Police reviewed criminal contacts of known gang members and connected the dots. Police created a heat map and overlaid West End shots fired calls for service with White’s territory. The two almost exactly mirrored one another.

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