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Witness in Killing Flees  
Witness in killing flees; case weakens
Gazette, The (Colorado Springs), Jul 26, 2006 by DENNIS HUSPENI THE GAZETTE

Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a murder charge against a suspected gang member after the key witness in the case fled.

Carlos Ford-Vigil, 23, was suspected in the June 15, 2005, shooting death of Joshua Delaney. Delaney was shot four times at close range with a revolver as he sat in his mother's car near London Lane and Chelton Road in southeast Colorado Springs.

A district judge decided in December that enough evidence existed to put Ford-Vigil on trial after hearing testimony from Ricky Lacour. Lacour said he heard Ford-Vigil boast after the shooting, "I shot that fool, Strap." Strap was Delaney's street name.

Prosecutors had dropped an attempted-murder charge against Lacour in exchange for his testimony.

"Without his testimony, there is no direct evidence to link the defendant to the murder of Joshua Delaney," Deputy District Attorney Robin Chittum stated in a motion to dismiss. "Ricky Lacour cannot be found in order to secure his testimony at trial."

In an e-mail response for comment, Delaney's mother, Kay Crawford, said: "It's a shame when small-minded thugs... decide to kill my son and then put the word out 'No Snitchin'."

Crawford said her son's killer, or killers, will face the ultimate judgment when they die.

Colorado Springs police de- tective Derek Graham and DA's investigator Gene Ferrin attempted to find Lacour in May through his mother in Tucson, according to the motion.

Ella Ruth Dersno, Lacour's mother, told Graham: "Ricky was 'in hiding' because she was upset with the District Attorney's Office and the Police Department releasing Ricky Lacour's name during the course of the investigation."

Dersno said her son got death threats, so he fled to another state. When told of the deal Lacour cut with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony, Dersno replied: "she didn't care about any agreements that the District Attorney's Office had offered to her son and that she was going to make sure that the police and District Attorney's Office would not be able to find her son."

Chittum said prosecutors are going to refile the attempted- murder charge against Lacour and that a warrant would be issued for his arrest.

Ford-Vigil is being held at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center on two other felony charges: assault and attempted murder.

In the assault, he allegedly beat, kicked and pistol-whipped a man who had loaned him a car. When he didn't return the car, the man pretended he called police, which prompted the beating, according to court documents.

In the attempted-murder case, Ford-Vigil -- a member of the 81st Street East Side Hustlers, a Crips gang, according to police arrest records -- allegedly fired shots at a man near a Colorado Springs apartment complex in a drive-by shooting.

Ford-Vigil is due back in court Monday. He is being held on $200,000 bond.

CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0110 or dennis.huspeni@gazette.com




Authorities Arrest 11 Suspected Gang Members  
A Colorado Springs Crips gang suspected of selling cocaine has been "crippled" after its leader and 10 members were arrested, authorities said Monday.

Arrest warrants have been issued for another 14 alleged members of the 81st Street East Side Hustlers, the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office said.

The reputed leader, Curtis "Curt Dog" Cooper, 37, faces up to 96 years in prison if convicted. He was jailed Friday on $500,000 bail on suspicion of drug charges, conspiracy and being a habitual criminal.

The gang is a sect of the Los Angeles-based Crips and got its name from 81st Street in L.A.

The sect has been active in Colorado Springs since at least the early 1990s, police Cmdr. Rod Walker said.

"They were one of the first gangs to migrate from the West Coast," he said. 


The investigation began after residents complained about what they thought were drug dealers in their neighborhoods. Then, Walker said, it grew from investigating individual complaints to linking the suspected crimes to the 81st Street Crips, which authorities call "a criminal organization intent on committing violent acts."

The 11 arrests took place Friday in southeast Colorado Springs near Chelton and Airport roads. Authorities said they seized crack, marijuana, methamphetamine, $4,300 in cash and 13 guns.

The suspects face various weapons-related and druglated charges, including distributing cocaine and marijuana.

"Gangs are not just a bunch of kids who hang out," District Attorney John Newsome said. "They are a sophisticated organization that profits from the sale of drugs. Weapons are their tool of choice. Violence is how they further their purpose."

Police estimate a few hundred gang members live in Colorado Springs, with about 45 of them active in the 81st Street Crips.

"In Colorado Springs, there is gang activity, but I don't think it's overwhelming activity," said Walker, who heads the Police Department's gang intervention unit.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's task force has been helping Colorado Springs police investigate the 81st Street Crips since early this year.

"Instead of targeting individual gang members, we targeted the organization," said Gray Hildreth, resident agent in charge of the DEA office in Colorado Springs.

Authorities said during the investigation they averted two drive- by shootings by the gang's members. They declined to elaborate Monday.

"I think it's fair to say we've certainly crippled the organization for now," Walker said, "and we will continue to monitor their activities." 
ARRESTED

Curtis Cooper, 37, the alleged gang leader

Letesha Metz, 25

Orlando Guevara, 27

Aisha Carr, 31

Demetria Pepper, 24 (Joshua's Baby Momma)

Meliki Sunia, 25

Gwendolyn Nathaniel, 46

Nanette Phillips, 34

Norma Chavez, 22

James Parks, 23

Brandy Villarreal, 18




News Release  
LAW ENFORCEMENT DISRUPTS LOCAL GANG RESULTING IN NUMEROUS ARRESTS
___________________________________________________________________________

District Attorney John R. Newsome, together with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Metro Vice and Narcotics Unit and the Colorado Springs Police Department, are pleased to announce the culmination of an investigation that resulted in the arrest of known or associated gang members. The arrests have substantially impacted the ability of a local street gang to operate. Because of these efforts, the Colorado Springs community is a safer place to live.

Vice and Narcotics Unit Commander Rick Millright, on behalf of Colorado Springs Police Chief Velez, stated, “I was very pleased to see this case originate out the Sand Creek Division of the Police Department. The Metro VNI/DEA Task Force was able to partner with the Sand Creek Officers to make a significant community impact.”

DEA Resident Agent in Charge Gray Hildreth stated, “We take pride in the cooperative effort which led to the dismantlement of this criminal organization and we are confident that it will reduce the flow of drugs into our neighborhoods.”

Agent Hildreth continued, “We would like to specifically recognize the Colorado Springs Police Department Gang Task Force. In response to increased gang violence, the Colorado Springs Police Department formed a task force of officer in late October, 2005 to proactively address gang crimes within the community. Over the past five months their efforts have impacted gang crimes with 187 arrests, 108 or which have been known gang members. Furthermore, the seizure of $57,000 in illegal narcotics, $29,000 in narcotic proceeds, and 51 firearms has had a direct impact on the local gang’s ability to profit from narcotic sales and wage violence in the streets.”

“In response to this effort, law enforcement was able to work together resulting in the arrests and search warrants executed on March 24, 2006,” Gray concluded.

Curtis Cooper, (DOB 2-6-69) identified as a leader of the “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips” was arrested and is being held in custody facing charges of Distribution of Cocaine (Repeat Offender) (F-2), Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine (F-2), Distribution of Marijuana (F-4), Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana (F-5, Special Offender – Deadly Weapon (gun available for use), Special Offender – Pattern of Sales, and four Habitual Criminal counts. He faces a total of 96 years if convicted of the F-2 and Habitual Criminal charges.

In addition, more than 25 arrest warrants were issued for active or associated members of the “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips” and all face various charges of Distribution of Cocaine, Distribution of Marijuana, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of Marijuana and charges relating to weapons.

At the time of the writing of this release, 11 have been arrested.

This investigation began in January, 2006, and culminated in the arrests/and or arrest warrants for numerous individuals. In addition, a number of search warrants were executed. All warrants are currently sealed.

In or about January, 2006, agents of the DEA Task Force, in conjunction with the CSPD Gang Task Force, initiated an investigation into the drug and weapon related activities of Curtis Cooper and other members of his organization based in Colorado Springs. Cooper was identified as a leader of the “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips.” The “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips” is one of many sects of Crip gang sets operating across the United States. Investigation shows that the local “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips” have been identified as a criminal organization intent on committing violent acts, narcotics trafficking and firearms related crime, the proceeds of which (in the form of US Currency) support the propagation as an organization.

Investigation shows that this street gang has been identified as operating with an organized hierarchy of members and has been operating within the City of Colorado Springs for the past decade. The Colorado Springs Police Department’s Gang Task Force has obtained information regarding the “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips” which has been collected through numerous police contacts with self admitted gang members, confidential informants and concerned citizens providing information to police. The Gang Task Force has identified 82 confirmed Crip gang members with an additional 28 associated (unconfirmed) gang members operating in the Colorado Springs area.

In February, 2006, the Colorado Springs DEA Resident Office, through the use of the investigative tools and intelligence gathered by the Gang Task Force, was able to follow the activities of Curtis Cooper, aka: “Curt Dog”. These tools allowed agents to identify members of the organization and confirmed the violent nature and extent of the organization. During the course of the investigation, agents were able to avert as least two drive-by-shootings by members of the organization.

On March 24, 2006, the investigation culminated in the execution of search and arrests warrants resulting in the initial arrests of 11 defendants and the seizure of small amounts of crack, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine, along with $4,300.00 cash, six vehicles, and 13 weapons. Civil forfeiture proceedings will be initiated on the case, vehicles, and weapons.

In addition, search warrants were executed at the following Colorado Springs locations (see map on CD):

3495 Atlantic Drive
1667 Carmel Drive
807 Hutchinson Drive
815 Calliope Drive
1927 Capulin Drive
1320 Rainier Drive
3465 Bridgewood Lane
511 William Avenue
2465 Royalty Court
350 Gahart Apartment #2

Prior to March 24, 2006, arrest warrants were obtained for the following defendants. Those that were arrested on March 24, 2006 are noted. Active warrants remain for the remainder of the individuals. Law enforcement is actively seeking the arrest of those individuals. Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Rogers at 444-7270 or Crime Stoppers.

Curtis Cooper – arrested (2-6-69)
Derrick Davis (7-6-58)
Marcus Hardeman (7-30-76)
Letesha Metz – arrested (1-18-81)
Sherry Luster (8-29-79)
Ebony Niblett (6-16-82)
Montrell Watson (9-4-79)
Jennifer Schell (1-26-71)
Michael Guzman (12-24-82)
Dushawn Williams (1-7-74)
Aaron Taylor (1-12-75)
Orlando Guevara – arrested (5-27-78)
James Quilter (10-11-76)
Justin Smith (4-30-87)
Dannie Ford (6-29-84)
Robert Carlyle (1-15-59)
Steven Sexton (3-16-65)
Preston Johnson (7-13-86)
Shawn Bell (11-12-82)

Additionally, probable cause was developed during the enforcement operation to arrest the following defendants:

Aisha Carr – arrested (1-7-75)
Demetria Pepper – arrested (7-8-81)
Meliki Sunia – arrested (7-29-80)
Gwendolyn Nathaniel – arrested (11-11-59)
Nanette Phillips – arrested (8-31-71)
Norma Chavez – arrested (7-25-83)
Norma Chavez – arrested (4-10-82)
Brandy Villarreal – arrested (12-27-87)

All defendants will be charged and prosecuted in the 4th Judicial District, District Court. They all face various narcotic and weapons-related charges.

The arrests made have resulted in a substantial impact on the ability of the “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips.” to operate. This impact will lead to less drugs, weapons and violence on the streets of Colorado Springs.

“Any street gang has the potential to radically change the safety of our neighborhoods,” said DA Newsome. “The “81st Street East Side Hustler Crips” have been actively engaged in criminal activity for more than a decade. I am pleased to say that through an enormous joint effort between the CSPD Gang Task Force, the DEA, Metro VNI and my office, the reign in over. They will be aggressively prosecuted here in our community.”

“As I have announced earlier, we have assigned a senior prosecutor to work with DEA and help dismantle organization such as this,” Newsome continued. “This attorney will lead these prosecutions. The message will be “If you choose to operate a gang, or participate in a gang, that specializes in drugs, violence and weapons, then you will face the full brunt of the law in Colorado.”

The effectiveness of this investigation has already been demonstrated. Two drive-by-shootings have been stopped. These were possible homicides. These were going to occur on streets that had law-abiding people living on them. While their target may have been opposing gang members, the risk to law-abiding people, or even kids, is great. I am pleased to see these plans stopped in their tracks.”

The following agencies participated in the investigation: The DEA Task Force, led by Resident Agent in Charge Gray Hildreth; the Colorado Springs Police Department and CSPD Gang Task Force, led by Commander Rod Walker; Metro VNI, led by Commander Rick Millwright; the Pueblo Police Department; the Colorado State Patrol; the Teller County Sheriff’s Office; the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Joshua 30th Birthday Memoriam  

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