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U.S. Takes Strong Action Against Kennedy Street Crew in Washington D.C.


[The sound of gunshots in Brightwood Park has plagued the neighborhood for years, seemingly without rhyme or reason. It was the result of petty disputes between street crews and the settling of grudges with a pull of the trigger. Residents pleaded with the police to put an end to the violence and open-air drug dealing. They were frustrated by repeated arrests that failed to bring peace to their community.

But last week, federal authorities announced significant indictments against over a dozen suspected members of the Kennedy Street Crew. Now, neighbors and officials are waiting to see if these arrests will finally dampen the violence that has long marred the area. According to prosecutors, the Kennedy Street Crew is one of the city’s largest and most sophisticated gangs. Allegations include keeping ledgers of illegal transactions, money laundering through a casino and fake business, and transporting drugs between D.C. and Southern California.

The crew’s leaders even set up a fake carwash called “Heavy Baggz LLC” to track their illicit activities. Their business structure was so intricate that IRS criminal investigators were called in to unravel it. Although the initial charges against the arrested individuals are related to drug trafficking and firearms, not specific acts of violence, some of the 42 firearms seized have been connected to area shootings.

According to prosecutors, the crew has been associated with seven deaths and over two dozen injuries caused by gunfire in the past four years. Officials from the U.S. attorney’s office describe the crew as a catalyst for the violence associated with drug trafficking and firearms in the Kennedy Street neighborhood.

This case signifies a shift in how prosecutors are approaching street violence. While they have previously dismissed street crews as disorganized groups involved in petty feuds, this crew resembles the gangs from the crack years of the 1980s and ’90s. They engage in deadly battles over cocaine, marijuana, and the lethal drug fentanyl.

With an increase in gun violence and fentanyl overdose deaths, prosecutors in the District are intensifying efforts to address these issues. The Kennedy Street Crew crackdown is the fifth large-scale operation since the formation of the Violent Crime Impact Team in 2022. Large, multiple-defendant federal drug and gun gang cases are being resumed to break the cycle of violence before a new generation is scarred.

The crackdown is particularly crucial as local judges and politicians have made it more challenging to prosecute illegal-gun possession cases and push for harsher sentencing for first-time offenders. Matthew M. Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District, believes it is essential to be proactive in investigating individuals or crews responsible for driving violence. By building cases against them, these individuals can be held accountable for at least some of their criminal conduct, leading to substantial periods of incarceration.

As the case progresses, some defendants have unsuccessfully argued for release in bond hearings. Defense attorneys for the individuals have either declined to comment or not responded to inquiries.

For years, Brightwood Park residents have endured gunfire and rampant crime, mostly centered around the Kennedy Street area. Some believe the neighborhood has been over-policed, leading to clashes between newcomers and longtime residents. The tension reached a breaking point when 20-year-old Karon Hylton-Brown was killed during a police pursuit in October 2020.

The incident sparked protests, highlighting the complexities of the city’s public safety debate. Perry Redd, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Brightwood Park, described the police as an occupying force. After Hylton-Brown’s death, the city promised new programs to address the concerns of young men in the Kennedy Street area. However, those promises were not fulfilled, resulting in frustration and, ultimately, indictments reminiscent of Al Capone.

Some residents of Brightwood Park see the raids as a positive development, bringing hope that they won’t have to face the dangers of their neighborhood alone. The arrests provide evidence that action is being taken, instilling a sense of comfort.

The Kennedy Street Crew grew in size and volatility after Hylton-Brown’s death, becoming one of the city’s largest crews. Authorities identified three open-air drug markets in the Kennedy Street area, along with numerous instances of gunfire. During the investigation, police raided multiple residences and vehicles, resulting in the discovery of firearms and evidence linking them to shootings.

Now the community anxiously awaits the outcome of these indictments, hoping that they will finally see an end to the violence that has plagued their neighborhood for far too long.


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