Crime fighters gone rogue

A long record of gang takedowns

  • Updated: March 23, 2011 - 1:58 PM

Despite its recent troubles, there's no denying that the Metro Gang Strike Force and its statewide predecessor had a big impact on gang-related crime during its 11-year run.

"For the first three or four years it was a screaming success," said former state Public Safety Commissioner Don Davis, chairman of the first strike force oversight board.

In 2001, prosecutors praised the force for helping take down some of the most violent Asian gang members and dramatically reducing the amount of gang-related crime.

A typical victory was solving the execution-style murder of a South St. Paul grocery clerk in 2002. The sister of strike force member John McManus overheard two gang members discussing the killing in a restaurant, a tip that ultimately led the unit to a female informant who wore a hidden transmitter and recorded the killer describing the fatal scene. The city of South St. Paul gave McManus and four other Strike Force members medals of commendation, the first time officers who weren't part of the city's police department were so honored.

Some cases took years to crack. In 2008, the Strike Force helped the FBI break up a national drug smuggling network that stretched from Arizona to Minnesota and Ohio, a case that began in 2005. The bust yielded more than $700,000 in cash and hundreds of pounds of cocaine and other drugs. The main suspect pled guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Between 1998 and 2008, the unit took credit for nearly 7,000 arrests. Conviction data was not provided after 2004, but the unit claimed its cases yielded about 2,000 convictions in its first seven years. Strike Force officers confiscated an estimated 3,700 pounds of marijuana and large quantities of crack cocaine and other illegal drugs, according to the unit's annual reports. The Strike Force also seized more than 1,500 firearms. The total amount of cash and other property seized topped out at above $2.5 million, records show.

"They've played a significant role in gang, drug and gun cases,'' said Tom Heffelfinger, former U.S. attorney in Minnesota. "In my experience, Ron Ryan was a dedicated cop. I can't speak to his ability as a manager."

RANDY FURST AND

PAUL McENROE

  • about this series

  • In 2009, the Metro Gang Strike Force was shut down amid state and federal investigations. It was Minnesota's worst law enforcement meltdown in decades. The Star Tribune broke the first stories about the unit's troubles and the newspaper's dogged reporting ultimately showed what led to its demise.

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