A task force of about 100 officers arrested 16 members of the infamous East Side Boyz gang Wednesday as part of a series of raids that also seized guns, drugs and cash.
“Operation Screeching Halt” had already arrested 12 people since being launched in May in an effort to target the “the worst of the worst,” said J. Chris Warrener, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis FBI office.
“Today is a good day, a day where we’ve taken some very violent criminals off the street,” said St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith at a news conference attended by some of the region’s top law enforcement officials.
The East Side Boyz gang has been associated with several recent crimes. In June, alleged East Side Boyz gang member Joseph Campbell was convicted of first- and second-degree murder for shooting Naressa Turner as she sat in a car parked in a St. Paul alley last October. Police believe some of the assailants who attacked Ray Widstrand while he was walking through a crowd near his home in August are members of the East Side Boyz gang or their affiliate, the Ham Crazy gang.
A year ago law enforcement agencies began to ask who were the most violent individuals in St. Paul and in May detailed planning began for the operation, Smith said.
“Today’s activities hopefully will send a strong message to individuals who want to recruit our young men and women in the city of St. Paul to do bad things and get involved with gang activity,” he said.
Authorities also recovered 11 guns, including long guns and pistols, about $3,000 cash, and narcotics such as methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and marijuana, during the raids in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Maplewood and Farmington, he said. Investigators used wiretaps, undercover operations and surveillance. There are still suspects being sought.
The FBI-led task force is made up of agents from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Minneapolis Police Department and the St. Paul Police Department.
“When our agencies work together, we can be very, very effective targeting the worst actors in our community,” said Mayor Chris Coleman.
Fifteen people have been charged with offenses including crimes committed for the benefit of a gang, drug sales, and aggravated robbery, according to the Ramsey County attorney’s office.