For community leaders in North Nashville, the announcement that authorities have charged 19 individuals on a variety of state and federal charges connected to recent violence came not a moment too soon.
Law enforcement officials in Nashville announced Wednesday morning that a federal grand jury indictment last week charged eight persons with charges including firearm possession by a felon and drug distribution charges. In addition, 10 more face a variety of state charges filed by District Attorney Torry Johnson’s office.
One man, Christopher Bridges, 20, who was arrested Monday in connection to an Aug. 21 double homicide at a Brick Church Pike gas station, has also been charged with a federal criminal complaint for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Rev. Enoch Fuzz, of Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church, said for too long area residents — and not, as it should be, the criminals — have lived in fear. The general violence in his community had made some afraid to attend church, he said, adding, “sometimes I’m afraid.”
“When you have shooting within a half mile of where you live … when you hear gunfire and you just turn over and go back to sleep, it’s time for somebody to come and help us,” Fuzz said.
According to police, the three-year-old investigation leading to the charges and arrests focused on members of the 98 Mafia Crips gang, which aside from the alleged involvement in the deadly August shootings also have sought to control drug sales in the J.C. Napier and Tony Sudekum public housing developments.
Metro Gang Unit detectives and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who worked the investigation believe that many of those charged lived in or frequented the areas around Creekwood Drive and Dellway Villa Road in North Nashville.
U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin said the decision to seek federal charges against some of the alleged criminals is an attempt to go after lengthy sentences for the “worst of the worst” and seeking “significant jail time with no hope for parole.”
Police Chief Steve Anderson said the charges are meant to send the message that “this summer’s gunfire and violence that has taken place in North Nashville is not acceptable.”
“We will seek federal prosecution of gang members whenever possible and upon conviction look forward to seeing them serve their sentence [in a federal prison] many miles from Tennessee,” Anderson said.
While Metro Councilwoman Edith Taylor Langster thanked Metro police for working with and responding to the community, she added a caveat for North Precinct Commander Anthony Carter. “But Commander Carter, you’ve got some more people to pick up.”
Those charged in the federal indictment include Timothy Jutodd Batey, 19, Malcolm L. Brooks, 36, Melvin Nathaniel Comer Jr., 22, Javaree Markeith Groves, 26, Lemanuel Rycole Hockett, 21, Darvis Quontez Lewis, 25, Antwan Montez Pitts, 34, and Lamont Marques Pitts, 24.
Timothy Jutodd Batey, 19, Melvin Nathaniel Comer Jr., 22, and Antwan Montez Pitts, 24, remained at large as of Wednesday. If convicted, all of those charged federally face prison sentences of between 10 years to life.
Additionally, the 10 facing state charges for alleged violent acts and drug sales include Tyquane Cruther, 21, Nathaniel Thompson, 32, Kendrick Walker, 22, Ryan Potter, 24, Quinten Dailey, 23, Kevin Fain, 22, Carlos Harp, 29, Stewart Dailey, 27, Jamahl Saunders, 23, and Clarence Shaw, 22.