Start United States USA — Art Former Sunny Side Gang member 'executed:' Gang never died with massive bust

Former Sunny Side Gang member 'executed:' Gang never died with massive bust


NewsHubBAY CITY, MI — Despite media claims that law enforcement had effectively dismantled the violent Sunny Side Gang nearly a decade ago, those reports now appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Thirteen members are at various stages of prosecution for running a heroin and cocaine ring in the region. Another former member was gunned down inside a federal halfway house, and police are investigating whether he was targeted by his cohorts or a rival organization.
About 9:40 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 23, two masked men brandishing assault-style rifles entered Bannum Place, a federally contracted residential reentry center at 2209 Norman St. in Saginaw. While one of the intruders held 23 people at bay, his companion shot 31-year-old halfway house resident Demarlon C. Thomas several times, killing him.
„If you look at the way this was executed, it was no accident — they knew exactly who they were looking for and knew exactly where he was at,“ said Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser.
Police on Jan. 25 released surveillance camera footage of the men entering the building.
Saginaw gang violence timeline, 2005-2013: The dismantling of structured gangs
„We’ve received some tips and we’re following up on those, but we don’t have a person of interest at this point,“ Kaiser said Thursday morning, Jan. 26.
Thomas, who had graduated from Saginaw High School in 2003 and briefly attended Minnesota West Community College on a football scholarship, had been sentenced to 19.6 years in federal prison on Nov. 25, 2008, after pleading guilty to a charge of distribution of 5 grams or more of cocaine base. President Barack Obama on Nov. 22, 2016, commuted Thomas‘ sentence. He arrived at Bannum Place on Dec. 13 and was scheduled for full release on March 22.
Police have not yet determined a motive for the killing but are investigating Thomas‘ past associations with Sunny Side Gang.
In October 2007, Thomas and 16 other men were federally indicted on a combined 29 counts related to the sale of crack cocaine and firearm possession. Police at the time said the defendants were „the worst of the worst. “
The indictments resulted from a three-year undercover investigation dubbed „Operation Sunset. “ It involved agents from the U. S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI, Michigan State Police troopers, Saginaw police, Saginaw County sheriff’s deputies and U. S. Marshals.
The indictments stated Stanley T. Brazil Jr., considered the Sunny Side Gang’s leader, would acquire crack and powder cocaine and distribute it to the other 16 defendants. They would then sell the product in the South Side, or Sunny Side, of Saginaw, the document states.
A jury in September 2008 found Brazil guilty of two counts of distributing 50 grams or more of cocaine base. He was sentenced to 380 months in prison.
The probe resulted in 29 federal convictions and 10 state convictions. Police at the time said the Sunny Side Gang was left in disarray and news outlets reported the investigation had „effectively brought an end“ to the organization.
„The work definitely made a huge dent in the Sunny Side,“ Michigan State Police Detective 1st Lt. Marvin L. Jenkins said in 2009. „You hardly hear about Sunny Side anymore. There were so many players taken out of the South End. That was a major success (for law enforcement). I wish we could do all the gangs that way, but Sunny Side was the most notorious at the time, so that is the one we concentrated on. “
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Lt. Kaiser said that while Sunny Side’s activities were reduced by Operation Sunset, the gang wasn’t entirely routed.
„It wasn’t totally dismantled,“ he said. „It was a good investigation and we got a lot of good arrests out of it, but to say it was totally dismantled is inaccurate. “
Amid the Sunny Side Gang’s reign, the FBI gave Saginaw the dubious distinction of having the most violent crimes per capita every year from 2002 to 2009. It fell to second place in 2010, held the third position in 2011, 2012, and 2013, dropped to fourth place in 2014. It fell off the list in 2015 as its population dropped below 50,000.
The city’s number of homicides soared to 25 in 2004, the highest since 1993. By mid-2006, a collaborative investigation by federal, state, and local agencies had put a big dent in the Sunny Side’s activities. By early 2008, police had arrested so many members of Sunny Side and the rival North Side Gang that they no longer could function.
The next four years went by without much discussion of gang violence, but after the city experienced 30 homicides in 2012, an ongoing rivalry between the East Side Gang and a new North Side Gang came to the forefront. The city had 25 homicides in 2013, with the rate dropping to 13 in 2014 and eight in 2015.
Prior to Operation Sunset, police in July 2006 arrested 19 Sunny Side Gang members, resulting in 31 federal drug and weapons charges against 11 individuals and state charges against 15 more.
Among those indicted was Damarlin M. „Bleed“ Beavers, then an enforcer. Beavers in 2007 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base.
In March 2008, Beavers was sentenced to 125 months in prison, though that was later reduced to 85 months.
Beavers was released in May 2014. He wasn’t free long before he wound up back in court, facing charges related to his role as a leader in the Sunny Side Gang.
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A grand jury in October 2016 indicted Beavers and 12 others associated with the Sunny Side operation were federally indicted on 35 counts related to a heroin and cocaine operation. So far, six have accepted plea offers.
The first to do so, 45-year-old Derek D. Riley, on Dec. 14 pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. The charge is punishable by imprisonment of five to 40 years and a $5 million fine.
Since then, Javon M. „YaYo“ Pratt, Brandon O. „Blue“ Pratt, Marquise D. „Ooh Stacks“ Ashworth, Darreyon R. „D-Money“ Mayfield, and Jeremy A. „Jig“ Cameron have followed suit. All five pleaded guilty to the same charge as Riley.
Beavers and Terence J. „Big Cheese“ Johnson, Alvin R. „La“ Pratt, Michael A. Pratt Jr., Eugene „Spank“ Smith III, Jauane R. Allen, and Lamar T. „Marley“ Simon still have open charges. All are in custody except for Simon, who remains at large.
Prosecutors have alleged Riley supplied the drugs to the Sunny Side Gang, with Beavers being one of the gang’s leaders.
According to sworn affidavits authored by FBI Special Agent Mitchell L. King, his agency began investigating the Sunny Side Gang in June 2015. On Aug. 30, 2016, personnel with the FBI’s Bay City-based Mid-Michigan Safe Streets Task Force executed eight search and arrest warrants in Saginaw as a result of an investigation into the area’s heroin problem.

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