An 18-month-long joint undercover investigation into a violent Columbia street gang has ended with 16 people facing federal charges.
Authorities hint that more charges could be coming as they "scrutinize" more people involved in other gangs. Federal agents worked closely with Columbia police and used wiretaps to gather evidence. The investigation, and the admission by police of a gang problem, is unprecedented for Columbia.
The 34-count federal indictment, unsealed Thursday, accuses 16 members of a Columbia gang - ranging in age from 19 to 42 - were involved in drive-by shootings, trafficking crack cocaine and carrying illegal firearms.
'The days of saying there's not really gangs in Columbia are over'
"The days of saying, well there's not really gangs in Columbia - they're over," said Interim Columbia Police Chief Tom Dresner.
Federal officials say the investigation is part of a nationwide crackdown on gangs. The indictment says this particular gang, known as the "Cut Throats," sold crack and powedered cocaine as well as marijuana from January 2007 to September of last year.
The group's also accused of several drive-by shootings, according to the indictment. The first happened in Junn 2007 at the Break Time on Smiley Lane. The second was in January of last year at the BP gas station on Stadium Drive in Jefferson City. And the third happened at the Petro Mart at the AC exit in south Columbia.
"It's great if they did it," said one Columbia resident. "It's good that they got them off the streets."
"The indictment further alleges that some of the defendants used firearms which they possessed illegally to initimidate, harrass and injur others in order to reduce competition, establish territory and enforce their debts," officials said during Thursday's news conference at police headquarters.
The way the indictment's worded hits that this particular gang had rivals and that Columbia's gang problem is bigger than people think.
"I think it's a much bigger problem than people were aware of," said Lt. Scott Young, a SWAT Commander with the Columbia Police Department.
While some of the suspects were already in jail, police made the final nine arrests in one day, something law enforcement officials say is very unusual.
The group facing federal indictments includes 14 Columbia resdients - four from the same family - a mother and three sons. One man is from Fayette, Mo. and another from Kansas City, Mo.
Charged in the indictment were: Eric Sherron Coats, 21, his borther, Koda Lashawn Coats, 22, their mother, Donna Coats, 39, another borther, Dametrell Koada Washington, 27, William Ricky Boyd, 21, Demarco Laron Burnett, 24, Tarron Montez Cason, 25, Cheviss Caron Denny, 20, Dajuan Anthony Harris, 25, Brandon James Isom, 19, Ryan Montez Kee, 22, WIlliam Harold Rogers, 42, Diondre Jamel Cooper, 19, and Robert Darnell Simmons, 36, all of Columbia. Michael Lee Stapleton, 22, of Fayette, Mo., and Robert Lee Jones, 19, of Kansas City, Mo.