HARLEM — The 103 suspected gang members indicted in a massive takedown at West Harlem's Manhattanville and Grant Houses were members of three rival crews responsible for two murders, 19 non-fatal shootings and 50 shooting incidents where no one was hit, officials said Wednesday.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Police Commissioner William Bratton called the four-year investigation and 145-count indictment, which resulted in approximately 40 arrests throughout West Harlem Wednesday, the largest indicted gang case in New York City history.
"It started with a feud between Grant and Manhattanville houses, which actually has gone on for decades, but in the recent years has escalated to make this area a war zone," Vance said during a press conference at police headquarters in lower Manhattan.
"These three gangs were not sophisticated drug trafficking organizations — far from it. They were young people protecting their territories from imaginary threats and avenging the murders of fellow gang members and loved ones."
The gang 3Staccs, associated with the Grant Houses between Broadway and Morningside Avenue and West 123rd to West 125th streets, engaged in shootouts with rivals, Make It Happen Boys and the Money Avenue gang, associated with Manhattanville Houses on Morningside Avenue.
The two murders in the conspiracy case are the September 2011 shooting of Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy, a senior basketball star at Murry Bergtraum High School who was regarded as one of the top female point guards in the country and was being recruited by colleges, and Walter "Reck" Sumter whose December 2011 murder was thought to be in retaliation for Murphy's death.
Murphy's brother Taylonn 'Bam Bam' Murphy was questioned by police about Sumter's shooting death and is alleged to be a member of 3Staccs. He was charged yesterday with conspiracy to commit murder.
Robert Cartagena and Tyshawn Brockington, the two men convicted of murder in Murphy's death and each sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, were members of the Make It Happen Boys. Brockington's brother Naquan "Tubs" Brockington is also a member of the Make It Happen Boys and is charged in the indictment.
"You need to look no further than the Murphy and Brockington families in this case to see the tragedy of how parents are losing their children, multiple children, potentially to prison and perhaps to an early grave," Vance said.
The indictments describe the back-and-forth violence in great detail and include posts those charged made on social media outlets, such as Facebook, that threaten rivals and refer to weapons and shootings.
In one Facebook exchange two days after Murphy's murder, prosecutors allege that Davon "Hef" Golbourne wrote to a 3Staccs rival that they had "fried the chicken." The rival Brian "Pumpa" Rivera responded “NOW IMAAA KILL YUHH."
Two months after Murphy's death, prosecutors allege that the same 9 mm handgun used to shoot her was possessed by various members of Make It Happen Boys, including Sumter, and the weapon was then used to shoot at a rival.
Murphy's brother allegedly shot at members of Money Avenue and Make it Happen Boys in 2011 and posted about it on Facebook before sending a threatening message to Sumter.
In the summer of 2012, after Sumter was killed, prosecutors say 30 members of Make It Happen Boys and the Money Avenue crews traveled from Grant Houses to avenge his death. Instead, an innocent bystander was assaulted and shot.
Prosecutors say it was this uptick in violence that caused them to focus on the area. Since 2010, there have been 10 murders, 46 non-fatal shootings and 27 reports of shots fired in the vicinity of the two housing complexes, though not all can be attributed to the rivalry.
The crews had already began recruiting the next generation, promising kids, ages 10 to 14, money and induction into the gangs. Some of the 50 illegal guns in the indictment were transported by kids as young as 10. The youngest person charged in the indictment is 15.
Many residents of the Manhattanville and Grant Houses expressed joy at the arrests.
"I think it will be safer now," said Marie Jackson, 86, a retired hairdresser who has lived in Grant Houses since 1956. Jackson said she often hears gunshots and rarely comes out of her home.
"I'm glad to see them clean it up," she said. "They have my blessing."