NEW YORK - After thousands of hours of detective work, 18 members of one of New York City's most violent gangs, the Hoolies, are being held accountable for four murders and eight non-fatal shootings.
I was the only reporter allowed as the NYPD and its partners executed an arrest warrant on the alleged leader and took him and the others into custody without firing a single shot or anyone being injured.
"I must say, Lisa, the City of New York is much safer today," Sgt. Calvin Fergus of the NYPD Gun Violence Suppression Division told me. "This crew is one of the worst crews I've ever investigated."
Early one rainy morning this week, more than 70 NYPD officers and other local and federal law enforcement gathered at the headquarters of the Gun Violence Suppression Division to take pre-indicted alleged gang members off the streets of Brooklyn. Among the wanted suspects were men accused of being involved in the July 2020 murder of 1-year-old Davell Gardner Jr.
Before we went out on the takedown, my cameraman and I put on bulletproof vests, which the NYPD recommended for our safety.
We watched as supervisors doled out assignments to the teams and briefed the officers. This was not a massive gang sweep but rather precision policing aimed at the most violent offenders, who had already been indicted by a grand jury. Three of the suspects were wanted for taking a baby's life.
"That's a soul that never got a chance to enjoy life. Think about that," Inspector Jason Savino, the division's commanding officer, told his officers. "Think about the impact that we're ultimately making. That's NYPD, our team at its finest."
We were there as the lineup of officers, called the "stack," went into an apartment building on Chauncey Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant. About half an hour later, they emerged with 33-year-old Travis Scott (no relation to the rapper of the same name), the alleged leader of the Hoolies gang. He was taken for processing at the 77th Precinct.
Back at Police Headquarters, Chief of Detectives James Essig told us this case was a top priority.
"This was such a horrific incident, a 22-month-old baby is sitting on the sidewalk and gets killed in this senseless violence," Essig said. "So I took that personal. My detectives took that personal."
The NYPD carefully coordinated this major case with Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and his team. They announced the indictments of 18 members of the Hoolies in a 63-count indictment, including murder, murder conspiracy, and weapons charges.
The indictment charged Dashaun Austin, 25, with shooting Davell Gardner Jr. and Akeem Artis, 24, with driving the getaway car.
"I know today's indictment will take some of the most prolific and violent offenders off the street and will have a positive impact on the quality and safety of life in Brooklyn," Gonzalez said.
Now that courts are open and functioning again, the NYPD plans to continue working with the DA and other partners to go after those directly responsible for pulling the triggers. Their goal is to turn around the rising gun violence before more innocent lives are taken.