On Oct. 23 of last year, detectives who'd been listening in on the phone conversations of two gang leaders as part of a year-long investigation had to risk exposing their surveillance: One of the two had just given a minion the go-ahead to take out a rival gang member. And not in some remote location - but right in the lobby of Roxbury District Court.
The detectives notified uniformed officers, who rushed to the courthouse - in time to arrest two members of the Woodward Avenue gang, a loaded 9mm handgun in the glove compartment of their rental car. Luckily for the detectives, Woodward Avenue gang leader Jonathan DaSilva blamed members of the gang on whose members he authorized a hit for dropping a dime to police. Detectives learned that through another phone call DaSilva made.
These and other descriptions of the investigation that led to last week's federal indictments against 23 members of the Woodward Avenue and Hendry Street gangs - and several alleged drug suppliers, buyers and couriers - are in a 60-page affidavit filed by Martin O'Malley, a Boston Police detective specializing in anti-gang work.
O'Malley provides bios of the 30 indicted people, who range from career gangbangers with arrest records dating back to when they were 15 to a Cambridge babysitter who was allegedly caught delivering pot for the gang. He describes a reign of violence and drugs going back to the 1990s with tentacles that reached across the city - on Dec. 26, two gang members coming out of a late-night meal at Chow-Chow in Chinatown were shot from an SUV, sending one of them to Tufts Medical Center with six fresh bullet holes (four years before, he'd beenshot coming out of an after-hours party on Bird Street).
Since 2005, Woodward and Hendry gang members have been shot 36 times, O'Malley writes, adding the members indicted this week have "amassed 853 indictments to date" in state and federal government - 33 of them for gun-related charges.
Hendry Street leader Alexis Hidalgo alone has a rap sheet that dates to 1996 - when he was 15. By the time he was 17, he already had convictions for robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition and firing a gun within 500 feet of a building. Jail apparently did not reform him - he's since been convicted for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, assault and battery on a public employee and various driving infractions. In all, at the age of 31, he's racked up 25 convictions - many for crimes committed while on probation for earlier crimes.
Although their apparent attraction to violence jeopardized people across the street, it was the Woodward Avenue area of Roxbury and the Bowdoin/Geneva section of Dorchester that bore the brunt of their collateral damage, O'Malley writes. Since July, 2006, the Woodward Avenue area has had 27 shootings - 3 of them fatal.
Meanwhile, in Bowdoin/Geneva, when nearby residents complained about activities at the Hendry Street gang's activities at its 37 Hendry St. headquarters, police stationed a full-time police cruiser outside. Gang members kept selling drugs out of the house, O'Malley wrote. It was only when the city Inspectional Services Department condemned the house for code violations and boarded it up on Aug. 27 that they shifted locales - sparking a frantic effort by gang members to get the guns cached at Hendry Street out, under the eye of officers in that patrol car.
O'Malley writes they moved to Woodward Street in Roxbury. Hendry and Woodward had always been on good terms, he writes: "HSG has long been aligned with Woodward Avenue and, as a result, has also taken on many of Woodward Avenue's disputes with other Cape Verdean gangs such as Wendover, Draper and Cameron Streets." The two gangs, in fact, began to operate almost as a single unit, pooling resources to "repeatedly purchase kilos of cocaine, thousands of oxycodone pills and hundreds of pounds of marijuana" for sale in the Boston area. They had a regular $100,000 monthly marijuana purchase from a source in California, who would deliver the pot to Chicopee, where gang members would pick it up (that source, Maurice Barnett, was himself arrested last week).
The Oct. 23 incident shows the ease with which gang members were willing to resort to violence. O'Malley writes that Woodward associate Michael Scott was in Roxbury District Court to answer to a shooting charge. His sister called DaSilva. Scott, she said, "had been cornered at Roxbury District Court" by members of the Wendover gang:
After learning that his associate Mike Scott was in trouble, DaSilva said simply, "Say no more."
DaSilva immediately called Joshua Brandao, and directed him to pick up Patrick Gomes, a/k/a "Pistol," and get Michael Scott out of the courthouse. DaSilva then called Gomes to advise him of what was happening, to tell him that Brandao was on the way to pick him and advise Gomes where he could find the "hammers" (the firearms) he would need to take care of the situation. In subsequent calls, DaSilva made it clear to Gomes that he had "the green light" (i.e., permission to use the gun) and consulted with Hidalgo to advise him that Gomes was on Woodward Avenue picking up a gun.
Faced with these intercepts, BPD officers immediately went to the Roxbury courthouse to intercede before any violence occurred. They immediately located Gomes with Michael Scott outside the Roxbury courthouse engaged in an animated conversation. As Gomes separated from Scott to return to Brandao (waiting in a nearby rental car) the officers noted that Gomes made an adjustment to his waist and then held onto his right side as he jogged back to the car (both indicators of someone with a firearm tucked into his waistband).
DaSilva told Brandao to "eat the gun" - or take responsibility for it, since he had a minimal criminal record.
In the affidavit, O'Malley writes police began investigating the Hendry and Woodward gangs in the summer of 2011, when they were approached by a "cooperating witness" who said he could help police get the gangs for drug sales. Between Aug. 2, 2011 and Oct. 12, 2012, this person made 30 "controlled buys" of crack, high-grade marijuana and oxycodone from gang members. Although the informer helped police gain valuable information, detectives eventually sought and obtained court persmission to tap Hidalgo's and DaSilva's phones. They'd been listening to their calls for nearly 2 1/2 months when they heard DaSilva arrange the courthouse hit.
The affidavit describes other incidents of violence surrounding the gangs:
On Dec. 1, O'Malley writes, officers responding to a report of shots fired found six gang members hiding inside 36 Woodward Ave., where two of them had probably been taking shots at a passing SUV.
On Jan. 10 of this year, Hidalgo was at a barber shop on Washington Street in Codman Square when he looked outside and noticed members of a rival gang. He called a gang member to bring a gun over. Hidalgo managed to get out of the shop unscathed and called DaSilva from in front of Dorchester District Court and asked for a ride. DaSilva agreed, but then called him back, all frantic because the police were behind him and he was afraid he was about to be "pinched."
DaSilva had a preference for using women to store and transport the marijuana once he got it to Woodward Avenue. Among his alleged couriers, also arrested last week, was Leakana Om of Cambridge. The daughter of Cambodian immigrants, Om was captured on film delivering one- and two-pound packages of marijuana to customers, O'Malley writes, adding Om was the sister of a woman DaSilva met in Atlanta - where he lived for two years after being ordered out of Massachusetts as a condition of a 2008 conviction. When not working for DaSilva, Om tried her hand at babysitting:
O'Malley writes in his affidavit that he did not include everything investigators found. The probe into the Woodward Avenue and Hendry Street gangs continues, he writes. Detectives are particularly interested in unraveling the financial underpinnings and dealings of a major drug and gun operation so profitable gang members thought nothing of dropping $10,000 for a table at a musical-awards banquet in Atlanta.
- O'Malley's complete affidavit (5M PDF)