It's no secret that teenagers can be pretty stupid about their social media habits, and this also seems to be true for kids that may be street smart.
Some 103 alleged gang members were indicted on Wednesday in what authorities have called the largest gang takedown in New York City’s history, a takedown largely made possible by a long trail of incriminating Facebook messages the young suspects left behind.
About 500 NYPD officers stormed two warring housing projects early on Wednesday — the Grant and Manhattanville houses — arresting dozens of alleged members of three gangs: the allied Make It Happen Boys and Money Avenue, and their rivals, 3 Staccs.
The accused — aged 15 to 30, with most of them at the lower end of that range — were indicted on a variety of criminal charges, including two murders, 19 non-fatal shootings, and 50 shootings in which nobody was hit. The boys are also accused in a long list of stabbings, slashings, assaults, robberies, and firearms possession.
One of their victims — 18 year-old Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy — was a promising basketball star gunned down in her building in September 2011. The second victim, Walter "Reck" Sumter, was killed that December, in direct retaliation for her death.
'They are Facebook dummies. Because the stuff that they were saying, that was gonna come back to bite them.'
The arrests and indictments came on the heels of a four-year investigation by the NYPD, who pored over more than 40,000 phone calls between gang members already in jail and their peers on the outside, hundreds of hours of surveillance video, and “more than a million social media pages,” the New York DA said in a statement. While 40 people were arrested during the Wednesday raid, 39 were already in jail, and the rest remain at large, officials said.
“The deadly and dangerous feud between the Manhattanville and Grant Houses dates back decades,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance said in the statement. “In the last four years, it has escalated into a bloody turf war marked by violence for the sake of violence.”
According to the indictment, two days after the death of Murphy — who was nicknamed "chicken" because of her bowlegged walk, according to DNAinfo — Davon "Hef" Golbourne wrote to a 3Staccs rival that they had "fried the chicken." The rival, Brian "Pumpa" Rivera, replied “NOW IMAAA KILL YUHH."
The exchange is just one of hundreds left behind by the boys, who took to Facebook to boast about their attacks or pledge revenge.
“They are Facebook dummies," Rev. Vernon Williams, a Harlem pastor who has spent years trying to curb youth violence in the neighborhood, told VICE News. "Because the stuff that they were saying, that was gonna come back to bite them, especially admitting participating in crimes, admitting getting the weapons that were gonna be used in crimes, and then calling someone in a state prison and giving them a report of what they did.”
Williams — who personally knows many of the indicted boys and says "they don’t judge me and I don’t judge them” — tracks gang rivalries on Facebook and Twitter. He is yet to catch up to Instagram, a new favorite among the youngest members. When the posts alert him to a possible fight, he shows up, and tries to break it up. For him, reading the two indictments was both painful and clarifying.
"The indictment for me, I was able to visualize it mentally, knowing where I was when this was going down, knowing where I was when this was happening,” he said. Williams slammed the kids for their Facebook stupidity, but also criticized the cops for not intervening earlier.
'Once we take down one from your block, we'll be good.'
"The indictment is almost 200 pages long and I would say 75-80 percent of it is Facebook posts and similar activity,” he said, referring to one of the two indictments. “The DA’s office was helped by the accused, all they did was watch and document it. I don’t know what took them so long, but once they had enough, they scooped them up.”
"3Staccs we ain playing games wit dese niggas locked up we goin bring the pain to these niggas letting off shots I got aim for these niggas heashots ima leave a stain in u nigga... if you want beef we emptying dem clips running from the D's and my team movin quick"
"I clapped at your man salendine them tnd niggas them nd the m.a. niggas on 25th and 7th last weekend"
"Dis Mike Slimes nicca gotta die. Money ave killer sending bullets to they liver!"
"Once we take down one from your block, we'll be good"
"Fuck Manhattanville, someone is going to die tonight."
"Got a man down."
William Bratton — the city’s newly appointed police commissioner — told a press conference on Wednesday that the alleged gang members turned the two housing projects into a “war zone.”
"They're not organized crime. They're not disorganized crime," he said. "It's all about violence."
Then Bratton took to social media himself — tweeting this photo of some of the officers behind the bust.
Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi
Photo via Flickr