Aiming to curb a surge of violence in Central City, New Orleans prosecutors obtained indictments this week against three men accused of distributing heroin as members of the notorious “Byrd Gang.”
A special grand jury's indictment unsealed Friday accuses the men of peddling drugs between October 2015 and May 2016.
Prosecutors say they believe Byrd Gang members are engaging in a turf war with another unnamed Central City group, although none of the three men was charged with crimes of violence in the indictment this week.
First cousins James "Poo" Alexander, 25, and Chance "Doona" Skipper, 22, as well as Randy "Tokey Heffner" Calvin, 26, are accused of conspiracy to distribute heroin.
Alexander faces two additional counts of distributing heroin, while Calvin and Skipper each face one additional count.
FBI agents and New Orleans police officers arrested the men in a raid Thursday on a house in the 2400 block of South Robertson Street.
In an interview outside the residence Friday, Skipper’s mother said police came crashing into the house, which belongs to her grandmother, with little warning.
“They just bum-rushed in the house. People (were) sitting on the porch, eating crawfish,” Michelle Skipper said. “Throwin' them on the ground and all that.”
Two Glock handguns, an assault-style rifle and more than 100 grams of marijuana were seized from the house, police said.
Prosecutors said the Byrd Gang, which hails from the former Magnolia public housing development, is feuding with another gang from the former Calliope development.
The Byrd Gang once was notorious for its involvement in a 2009 Mardi Gras shootout on St. Charles Avenue that left seven innocent bystanders wounded. Prosecutors allege that a new generation of gang members is once again wreaking havoc on city streets.
Another man, Timothy "T-Maf" Jackson, 29, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator. He pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to charges of drug trafficking, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He remains in federal custody.
Authorities promised more indictments against the group and rival gangs soon.
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“This is a small part of a bigger case ... that’s going to really help stop the gun violence that’s been going on in the 6th District,” said Deputy Police Superintendent Paul Noel. The 6th District covers all of Central City.
All three men charged this week have been on authorities’ radar since at least August, when Alexander was accused of provoking a daytime shooting incident on Magazine Street that left him, a rival and a bystander wounded.
Police said Alexander punched another man in the back of the head as they walked out of a clothing store in the 1900 block of Magazine. The two men then started shooting at each other. A hairstylist at a nearby salon was injured in the melee.
Alexander was in custody on a charge of attempted second-degree murder until last month, when his defense attorney, Kevin Boshea, obtained a bail reduction to $150,000.
Boshea questioned why authorities waited until this week to reveal the results of an investigation that touches on heroin distribution dating back to 2015.
“We're not talking about new criminal activity once he was released on bail,” Boshea said. “What we're really dealing with here is that somebody’s upset with the fact that he's posting bail and responds.”
Boshea called the order of events “unusual” and said he believes prosecutors should have informed Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman, who is overseeing the Magazine Street shooting case, about the heroin investigation.
Skipper was also charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the Magazine Street shooting. He is accused of fleeing the shooting scene with Alexander in his car.
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Michelle Skipper denied that her son and Alexander are gang members. She said she thinks authorities are twisting her son’s role in a rap group into membership in a gang.
Chance Skipper is employed on a barge in Chalmette, according to his mother.
“He ain't in no gang, that’s for sure. I know that,” she said. “They wrong. They just want to put stuff on people.”
Skipper's attorney, Jay Daniels, said he was still gathering information on the indictment. It was unclear Friday whether Calvin had obtained a lawyer.
Criminal District Court Judge Paul Bonin set Alexander’s bail at $300,000 and the bail for Calvin and Skipper at $200,000 each.