Crime & Courts

Putney: Police suspect gangs in weekend shootings in Charlotte

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney discusses the rash of shootings over Labor Day weekend

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney discusses the dozen shootings over Labor Day weekend in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday.
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CMPD Chief Kerr Putney discusses the dozen shootings over Labor Day weekend in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney on Tuesday said a violent Labor Day weekend in which 12 people were shot and five people killed – including a 7-year-old boy – stemmed from retaliatory shootings between gangs.

Putney would not identify the suspected gangs, and investigators haven’t announced any arrests. He said investigators believe many of the assailants are 18 to 24 years old, but police have been stymied by uncooperative witnesses.

Putney said the department has increased patrols in every police division – particularly in crime hotspots and neighborhoods where shootings have happened. For example, in the normally quiet Springfield neighborhood where 7-year-old Kevin Calderon Rodas was shot, at least five police vehicles could be seen Tuesday parked on dead end streets.

The holiday weekend shootings are part of a greater uptick in crime across the city this year. With more than three months left in 2015, Charlotte has seen 43 homicides, more than all of last year. Violent crime was up by 12.3 percent in the first half of this year, police reported.

Putney’s statements mark the third time this year that police have made a public effort to crack down on gangs, including a sweep in May in which United Blood Nation members were accused in last year’s Lake Wylie killings of the owners of a South Boulevard mattress store.

Putney said investigators believe some of last weekend’s violence was sparked from something as simple as a disagreement that ended violently at a night club. Some of the victims were “innocent people caught in the crossfire,” Putney said.

“There’s a definite theme of retaliation and, to be quite frank, ganglike behavior,” Putney said Tuesday at a news conference. “So we’re going to go after the suspects as if they are gang members retaliating against each other.”

Police are treating all of the Labor Day shootings as if they are connected, Putney said. Over the weekend, high-ranking police officials had been hesitant to publicly make connections between the crimes.

Meanwhile, CMPD is cracking down on violent crime across the city, offering overtime to patrol officers and canceling vacations. “We’re targeting street level violence, period,” Putney said. “We’re going to be assertive in those efforts.”

Police crack down

In addition to added patrols, Putney said the department is:

▪ Going after the city’s most violent offenders, including people wanted for shooting into homes and other violent crimes. Putney said officers were conducting “knock-and-talks,” a tactic where officers go to the homes of suspected offenders, even if investigators don’t have a warrant. He said officers were also being more assertive about obtaining arrest warrants for people suspected of violent crimes.

▪ Increasing their use of technology to track suspected criminals. Officers were using license plate readers, traffic cameras and the real-time crime center, which helps officers combine data and investigative work to more efficiently solve recent crimes.

▪ Re-opening cases in which people have been accused of shooting into occupied dwellings. Police were trying to find previously unexplored links between the most recent crimes and old cases.

Putney also called on people to report anything they had seen about any of the shootings over the weekend. He said Crime Stoppers rewards had been doubled for information about last weekend’s killings.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney talked to the media about the recent spate of homicides in Charlotte.

“We’ve got to have the community’s help,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot about how much black lives matter and brown lives matter. Let’s be honest: Three of the (homicide) victims were black, and two are Latino, so we’re adamantly and passionately asking the public to assist us in bringing these suspects to justice and bringing some closure to the families.”

Staff writers Mark Price and Kathleen Purvis contributed.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: 704-358-5046, @CleveWootson

Other gang cases

▪ For nearly a year beginning in 2013, a civil injunction prevented members of the Hidden Valley Kings gang from physically gathering in just about every way imaginable – from “driving, standing, sitting, walking or appearing together in public view” to possessing firearms or drugs, or being in the presence of anyone who does. Known gang members who violated the order were charged with misdemeanors.

Police told the Observer the civil injunction appeared to work. Violent crime fell in Hidden Valley by 21 percent over 12 months.

▪ In May, more than a dozen reputed members of the MS-13 gang were charged with crimes ranging from racketeering and drugs to robbery and attempted murder. A federal indictment accuses 37 suspected MS-13 members of operating a criminal enterprise in and around Charlotte since at least 2009.

▪ In April, 12 alleged members of the United Blood Nation were indicted following a sweep covering two parts of the state. Six gang members are charged in the killing Doug and Deborah London, who were gunned down in their Lake Wylie, S.C., home last October after three gang members tried to rob a mattress store they owned along South Boulevard in Charlotte five months earlier, authorities said.

Prosecutors say the gang was trying to prevent Doug London from testifying against them in the robbery.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

Labor Day weekend homicides

▪ 4:44 a.m. Saturday: A man with a gunshot wound is left at Novant Health Presbyterian Hospital. The victim, James Taylor, 23, was later reported dead. When police located the crime scene, in the 1800 block of North Hoskins Road, a second man, Dominique Wheeler, 25, was found dead of a gunshot wound.

▪ Saturday evening: A children’s birthday party on Fieldvale Drive is targeted with gunfire. Kevin Antonio Calderon Rodas, 7, died. Two adults and a school-age child were injured and treated at the scene.

▪ Late Saturday: Police investigating on Fieldvale Drive hear shots and respond to a home on nearby Echodale Drive. One man living in the house was injured, and a woman, Laquanta Franchez Young, 30, was killed. Neighbors reported it as a drive-by shooting.

▪ Sunday morning: A shooting is reported in the 1100 block of Glenfiddich Drive, and one man is killed. Police identified the victim Monday as Elias Izagirre Perez, 31.