The Attorney General's office today unsealed a 64-count federal grand jury indictment against nine members of two sects of the Vice Lords street gang operating in Murfreesboro and Nashville, allegedly responsible for a series of violent retaliation crimes beginning in November of 2007.
At a press conference Tuesday, police and federal officials outlined the charges included in the indictment, including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to distribute drugs, among others. Of the nine gang members indicted, six have been arrested and three remain at-large.
“As we all know now, gangs of this type are moving into Middle Tennessee. We are not happy about that,” said U.S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough. “Gang activity and lawlessness of this type will not be tolerated in Middle Tennessee.”
Flanked by officials including Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas, Davidson County District Attorney Torry Johnson, James Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Connie Atkinson and Murfreesboro Police Department Deputy Chief Randy Garrett, Yarbrough emphasized violent gang elements and waves of crime can be effectively stopped with collaboration.
The Vice Lords were investigated through a joint effort of the Murfreesboro and Metro Police Departments, ATF, TBI and local and federal prosecutors.
According to the information provided by officials, the violent crimes reportedly committed by the defendants were set off after members of the gang were assaulted on Nov. 10, 2007 at a now defunct Murfreesboro club, The Drink.
In the assault, the leader of the Conservative Vice Lords, Donnell Valentine, was shot and killed in retaliation for an earlier gang beating, according to the allegations in the indictment. After Valentine's death, members of the Conservative Vice Lords and Traveling Vice Lords, led by Roger Wayne Battle, 28, of Nashville, set out to retaliate in turn.
According to Yarbrough, From Nov. 14, 2007 through Jan. 1, 2008, gang members allegedly shot up four houses in Murfreesboro, killing Moss Mason Dixon, and hitting four others. On Feb. 10, Battle and another gang member allegedly killed Brandon Harris, a member of the Mikey Cobras, a gang aligned with the Vice Lords.
According to the indictment, Battle killed Harris because former members told others that Battle had been involved in the November death of Valentine. Luring Harris to Nashville and then Antioch under the guise of a drug deal, Battle and another suspect shot the gang member on Rice Road, investigators say.
In the course of the investigation into these crimes, police and federal officials uncovered the 64 counts alleged in the indictment. Officials Tuesday expressed hope that the federal charges will result in longer sentences.
Metro Police Chief Serpas expressed frustration that Battle had previously been arrested and sentenced to a prison sentence for aggravated assault on police officers. He did not serve his whole sentence.
“The strong message here is our partnership is complete,” Serpas said. “We are going to get to the bottom of these cases, and once again, in this federal prosecution, we hope that the guilty verdict will result in what we don't get in the state system, which is 100 percent time served behind bars.”
The defendants include the following:
Roger Wayne Battle a/k/a "T-Wayne," 28, of Nashville
Jessie Lobbins a/k/a "Jessie Oliver" a/k/a "Trap," 24, of Nashville
Gary Eugene Chapman a/k/a "Wheat," 30, of Murfreesboro
Christopher David Imes a/k/a "Chris," 21, of Murfreesboro
Demarco Lewayne Smith a/k/a "Marco," 23, of Murfreesboro
Lashandra Danielle Hightower a/k/a "Daniel," 26, of Murfreesboro
Curtis S. Green a/k/a "Curt," 28, of Nashville*
Samuel Joseph Gaines a/k/a "Born Ready," 22, of Murfreesboro
Delregus Alexander a/k/a "Blow," 35, of Murfreesboro