INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 23, 2015) - Police believe the arrests of alleged gang members will reduce crime and improve the safety of neighborhoods. One of the largest sweeps to ever take place in Indianapolis targeted a violent gang called the Block Burners. Federal, state and local law enforcement worked with 19 SWAT teams to raid homes all over the city.
"I think the impact will be immediate, I think it will be apparent," said Officer Chris Wilburn with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD).
The sweep resulted in the arrests of 35 people on federal and state charges. Four fugitives are still wanted, including the gang's ringleader known as Jeezy. Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office said they are confident they will find him soon. The following suspects are still at-large:
- William Brown, aka Jeezy, is the Block Burner gang leader. He’s wanted on a federal charge of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances.
- William Dodd is wanted on two federal charges: Serious Violent Felony and Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics.
- Moniqque Smith is wanted on two state charges of Conspiracy to Dealing Cocaine and Maintaining a Nuisance.
- Tyree Gilbert is wanted on two state charges: Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by Serious Violent Felon and Criminal Recklessness with a Firearm.
An investigation showed the Block Burners gang was established in 2004 and is centralized at 42nd and Post Road. About 90 members are believed to be part of the gang. The raids on Wednesday morning, dubbed "Operation Smoke Show" were more than a year in the making. Teams served 22 federal and state warrants at 32 different locations. Police seized cocaine, heroin, prescription pills, 21 guns and $53,000.
On Thursday, police arrested another suspect, Marcus Baxter, on 16 counts including charges for dealing and possessing marijuana.
"You're seeing that this operation in part brought about a lot of different elements in terms of drugs, a lot of things were uncovered and it's our hope obviously that we reduce crime on a number of areas," said Officer Wilburn.
Investigators identified key suspects and began following their every move. In the spring, authorities began wiretapping cell phones to monitor the alleged gang members. Through those conversations, police learned the suspects were traveling to California to get drugs. One suspect was caught on surveillance video mailing a package in California. Investigators intercepted the package and found a pound and a half of cocaine.
Police also used undercover buyers to purchase more than a pound of heroin from one of the suspects.
Wednesday's sweep had east side residents talking.
"We know all 35 of those guys.They are always all around here," said Juhmal Eastland.
Court documents show the gang moved large quantities of high quality heroin. The suspects would have users test the drugs and rate them on a scale from one to 10 in order to determine the potency.
"What you have here are a number of players involved in a number of intricate criminal enterprises removed a plucked out of that community and we will bring peace and some level of continuity in terms of how they live their lives and so that's important for us and to us that was a big win," said Officer Wilburn.
Residents said they are glad to see neighborhoods being cleaned up. They described a lot of traffic, which could be an indicator of potential drug activity at the homes where search warrants were executed.
"See a bunch of cars coming and going but didn't know what they were doing or anything like that, most of them never stayed very long," said James Smith, who lives near one of the homes that was raided.