The sweeping racketeering indictment against 21 suspected members of the Harvey Hustlers filed last week is part of a years-long joint investigation between the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, with federal authorities indicting 18 other members of the street gang Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand called the largest and most violent his office has faced.
The joint case alleges seven people were killed as the members of the Harvey Hustlers facing charges carried out their business: dealing drugs. Mayhem attributed to the gang includes the February 2013 killing of 81-year-old Doretha Richardson in Bridge City and the shooting of five innocent bystanders, which left a 1-year-old girl paralyzed.
“In all my years in law enforcement, I can honestly say that the Harvey Hustlers gang was one of the most violent, vile criminal organizations that this organization has dealt with,” Normand said at a news conference Thursday. “We recognized early on that we were going to need assistance ..., (and) we reached out to the FBI to help us put this case together.”
Details of the investigation began to emerge last week when the state indictment was filed under seal by Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick. At that point, 11 of the 21 alleged gang members charged in that document had been booked into the parish jail.
Normand and FBI Special Agent Mike Anderson on Thursday said all but three of the 39 indicted at either the state or federal level are in custody, with only Carlnell Pierce, 35; Keitrel Gumms, 25; and Nathan Carter, 30, still at large. All three at large are charged in the state indictment.
Anderson said “neighborhood-based gangs like the Harvey Hustlers are terrorizing these communities, and I would argue (they) have a much more significant impact than many of the nationally-based gangs.”
“My heart goes out to the communities of Jefferson Parish for all the pain and the anguish, the victimization by this group,” he said. “I’m very confident that justice will be swift and proportionate.”
The gang, which authorities said has been operating in Jefferson Parish for about eight years, has been under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office for about three years, and its members have been arrested on drug, gun, racketeering and murder charges.
In custody and named in the state indictment are Bryant Gumms, 24; Ellis Landix, 29; Paul Smith, 25; Kentaz Gayden, 27; Derrick Gumms, 26; Corey Trent, 25; Stephanie Bradley, 43; Brandon Motton, 28; Charles D. Gumms, 21; Charlie A. Gumms, 19; Willie Thornton, 30; Lashawn Davis, 31; Davante Robertson, 21; Rasheed Smith, 24; Robert Williams, 33; Alcus Smith, 28; Richard Chess, 24; and Kerry Reynard, 25.
Those charged in the federal indictment are Harry Smoot, Lance Singleton, Frankie Hookfin Jr., Ray Woodruff, Isaac Smith, Terrence Kelley, Clifford Sonnier, Andre Addison, Joequell Lewis, Christopher Brown, Terrell Wade, Richard Thomas, Savannah Houston, Glen Houston, Denver London, Jarrin Harris, Joesia Wilson and Brittany Conner.
Smoot and Singleton — who’s nicknamed “Life Taker” — are charged in federal court with fatally shooting 19-year-old Shanna Girod and 22-year-old Willie Odom on Aug. 18, 2012, documents show. Odom’s 4-year-old daughter and Girod’s 4-month-old son were sitting in the car with their parents when the victims were attacked at U.S. 90 and Lapalco Boulevard in Avondale. The children were not wounded.
The feds have also charged Kelley (“Streets”), Hookfin, Woodruff and Isaac Smith (“Ike”) with the fatal shooting of Emeal Washington on Feb. 11, 2013. Washington died after being shot on August Avenue in Marrero.
Four days later, in Bridge City, Richardson died after being shot in her home. She reportedly was sitting with her grandson, his girlfriend and a 3-year-old girl; and Richardson did not appear to be the intended target. Smoot, Hookfin, Woodruff and Smith have been charged in federal court with killing Richardson during the commission of a drug trafficking crime.
Meanwhile, the feds allege Glen Houston, Harris, Savannah Houston, London, Wilson and Conner committed various drugs and weapons crimes from about Jan. 1, 2008, to about May 1, 2013.
Over in state court, before last week’s indictment, prosecutors in Jefferson had charged Davis, Robertson, Charlie A. Gumms and Hookfin in a shooting at the Lapalco Court Apartments in Harvey on April 22, 2013, that left three toddlers and two women in their 60s wounded.
One of the women answered a knock on the door that day, and two shooters posing as police fired an AK-47 and a handgun, the Sheriff’s Office has said.
Investigators believe the shooters’ two targets were in the apartment but were not hit. However, children ages 1, 2 and 3 as well as women who were 63 and 67 were struck. The 1-year-old — a girl — was paralyzed as a result.
Davis, Robertson, Charlie A. Gumms and Hookfin were later charged with five counts of attempted second-degree murder each. All have pleaded not guilty.
State authorities on Thursday revealed they charged Alcus Smith with second-degree murder in connection to the Nov. 16 killing of Donte Hall in Marrero. Hall died after being shot multiple times in the 2600 block of Pelican Bay Boulevard. They mentioned that at least two other murders in Jefferson Parish factored into their investigation: that of Danny Antoine on Oct. 3, 2008, and Albert Bullock on Jan. 22, 2011.
Authorities allege Reynard killed Antoine as retaliation for the victim’s selling “bunk” cocaine on a street controlled by the Harvey Hustlers to one of the gang’s customers. They allege Williams paid a man named Raheem Robinson to kill Bullock, who was gunned down outside a daiquiri shop in Waggaman.
Robinson in November 2013 pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter as well as conspiracy to commit murder in Bullock’s killing, state court records show. He has not been sentenced yet.
Following Bullock’s killing, state prosecutors charged Smoot with the tampering of evidence in the case. He pleaded guilty in July 2013 and received a seven-year sentence.
In yet another allegation included in the state indictment, prosecutors say Williams was recorded on a Nov. 3, 2013, phone call ordering an unknown individual to murder a man named Tosh Toussaint.
Toussaint was arrested on the day of that phone call and eventually charged with cocaine and illegal weapon possession. Toussaint on Thursday had a tentative April 13 federal court trial date.
The state indictment does not charge either Reynard or Williams — who is accused of fleeing to Memphis, Tennessee, before his racketeering arrest — for their alleged roles in the killings of Antoine or Bullock. But the murders were wrapped into the state indictment to help demonstrate a pattern of racketeering.
“This was not a run-of-the-mill, easy case to put together,” Normand said Thursday. It was “very, very difficult (and) brought us many different places many times.”
Normand described the Harvey Hustlers as “an incredibly violent organization,” noting that the list of defendants would have been longer had some not been killed during the course of the investigation.
In racketeering cases, prosecutors group together crimes they allege were committed over a period of time in furtherance of an illegal enterprise, such as drug dealing.
Such prosecutions allow jurors to hear a more complete idea of the defendants’ alleged criminal conduct should the case ever go to trial. It can be harder to paint the bigger picture when charges are tried individually.
— This post has been updated several times since it was first published to include more details as they’ve become available.