A town is overrun by gang violence. So much so that the local cops get shot at while making a felony traffic stop. Detective Scott and his colleagues embark on a months-long investigation that includes wiretaps, search warrants, and jailhouse informants to bring down a gang called The Players.
Detective Scott has been in law enforcement for over 15 years. His assignments include patrol, the gang unit at his agency, and special victims’ crimes. He currently works narcotics at his agency, as well as working on a task force that helps federal agencies investigate international crime organizations. He has a Master’s Degree in communications and is an avid reader of nonfiction.
Chris [00:00:03] Officers hear the gunshots whizzing by their head. They see the rounds skipping on the ground in front of them. They don’t know who’s shooting, they’re just taking fire, and it was six or seven shots.
Dan [00:00:13] And it’s pretty effective fire. If they can hear it going by their head, that’s close.
Scott [00:00:17] There are reports of officers hearing it skip a ricochet off the cement in between their legs. Like [imitating bullets ricocheting].
Dan [00:00:24] Yeah, that’s not just indiscriminate fire, they’re aiming at you.
Yeardley [00:00:28] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:00:54] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:00:55] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:00:58] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:01:05] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places, relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan [00:01:20] We ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley [00:01:36] Today on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan [00:01:43] Good morning.
Yeardley [00:01:43] Good morning. So good to see you.
Dan [00:01:45] Likewise.
Yeardley [00:01:46] (chuckles) We have Detective Dave.
Dave [00:01:49] Hello from not where you are.
Yeardley [00:01:51] Dave is in his house. We are doing this over Zoom. So, you might hear some life, you might hear Dave’s 150-pound mastiff laughing loudly from the bull. You might hear my cat, Zipper, going, “Hey, what up, dude?” But all that being said, I am thrilled to welcome back, a fan favorite, you guys are going to be so happy. We have with us, Detective Scott.
Scott [00:02:16] How’s it going, everybody?
Yeardley [00:02:17] So good to see you.
Scott [00:02:18] You too. You too.
Yeardley [00:02:20] Scott brought us The Girl Next Door and The Runaway, which you guys loved, as did we, of course. But, today, we start anew. And we are most honored that Scott brought some colleagues with him. Scott, I’m just going to hand it over to you and let you introduce everybody.
Scott [00:02:37] All right, it’s good to be back. So, I brought, as Yeardley said, a few people that I think are integral to this story and how it played out and how it was investigated. Without further ado, I brought along Sergeant Chris.
Chris [00:02:51] Good morning.
Yeardley [00:02:51] Welcome.
Chris [00:02:52] Thank you.
Scott [00:02:53] And also, DA Phil.
Phil [00:02:55] Hi, everybody.
Yeardley [00:02:56] We’re thrilled that you both are here.
Scott [00:02:58] All right, here we go. This is a special case to me. It’s one of my best memories, I think, I’ll take away from working as a police officer. It occurred with a group of guys that were in a gang unit. We call it CIT, which is Crime Impact Team because it’s actually much more than just a gang unit. Chris and I were part of that team when this case occurred, so we wanted to be the mouthpieces to tell this one. It’s a pretty cool case in our city, would you say so, Chris?
Chris [00:03:27] Yeah, that was a mind-boggling case for me, being a brand-new investigator at the time, I was only two and a half years on when this happened. I learned a lot. At the end, it all came through.
Scott [00:03:39] With the wonderful help of DA Phil, who jumped on board and guided us. We were both pretty young at the time.
Yeardley [00:03:45] Are you infiltrating the gangs?
Scott [00:03:48] No, that’s stuff of the past really. It’s kind of dangerous, a lot of liability that the department has to look at, and they’re just not willing to do that anymore. It’s not really worth it.
Phil [00:03:58] That’s more of a federal thing in my history. The feds, FBI, DEA and so forth, they’ll infiltrate gangs on a more national scale type gangs, not necessarily the local criminal street gangs that we deal with here in our city.
Yeardley [00:04:10] Can you just for a little bit of background, tell me what the CIT’s job is?
Scott [00:04:15] So, it’s the crime impact team that is supposed to impact the crime within the community we serve on all sorts of facets, I guess you can say. We’re a gang enforcement team, a gathering of intelligence of the gangs in the city. We document all criminal activity that’s occurring by the gangs in the city. But I’d say more so, we’re out there to connect with the community to know where the problems are arising. So, you’re going to a lot of city meetings, a lot of the civilians or the community members will call it the Black Shirts, because the crime impact team wears a different uniform than a patrol officer.
Yeardley [00:04:47] Oh, they call you guys the Black Shirts?
Scott [00:04:50] Yeah. They stand out a bit as more of an intelligence gathering team. Back when we were first on CIT, we would handle all of the community relations meetings throughout in the cities in the different areas. We’d say, “Hey, Chris, go to area one and do the community meeting,” or our sergeant, and another officer on the team would go to another area and do a community meeting. That was designed to let them know we were there, that we knew the problems they were facing, and that we were kind of together as a team that can help us help them type of deal. So, it was pretty good.
This particular story involves a gang that I’d say has been terrorizing the streets of our city, since probably the early 90s. I’m going to say 1993-1994, maybe a little bit earlier than that. It was kind of a predominant gang in our city at the time, and not so much anymore. I’d like to say because of, we call it The Player’s case, as it’s been kind of dubbed, which is centered around this gang called The Players.
[00:05:48] I just wanted to start with a story to let you know what type of gang this was, and the history that we learned from this gang coming on or being onboarded onto Crime Impact. The Black Shirts in our city, have a rich tradition of pounding the pavement, and really putting a dent in the criminal gangs in our city. We take pride in that, our city’s taking pride in that, because the city has been sort of pillaged over the years with gang activity, but it’s been suppressed largely at the efforts of this Crime Impact Team. So, to get to black shirt is like, it’s pretty cool.
Yeardley [00:06:24] It’s a badge of honor.
Scott [00:06:25] Right, and you’ll see what we’re talking about because, it was from pounding the pavement in the street interviews, to surreptitious recordings and jails and wiretaps, and all sorts of investigative means.
Chris [00:06:38] And the reason for all these different investigative means was this is probably the biggest problem our department ever faced.
Scott [00:06:44] When I first got to the city as a police officer, one of the first things that you do in training is you drive the city, and you learn the city streets, and you learn the hot zones. Your FTO says, “Hey, this is where this gangs, and this is where this gangs at, and this is the problems you’re going to see here.” They kind of get you involved in the city that way.
I remember my training officer telling me a story that had occurred right before I became a police officer, which involved this gang, that we later investigate under The Players case. You have three members of this particular gang or more, and they’re hanging out at a taco shop in our city. That’s one of the major cross streets in our city. It’s a well-known little taco stand. They’re eating and a member of a rival gang shows up and just murders this person, a member of his rival gang. Shoots him a few times, guy goes down in front of his girlfriend, who’s also a gang member. So, you have this shooting at night. The cops get there, the victim dies. Now, they’re starting to investigate who shot this guy from this gang, from Players.
Dave [00:07:47] Is this a situation where they’re following this guy and then finally, he stops and they’ve got an opportunity? Or, is it one of those where if you see this guy while you’re out and about, take him out?
Scott [00:07:57] That’s what I believe, that was, was, “Hey, we’re out in the streets looking for these gangsters, and if we find one, it’s kind of open season.”
Yeardley [00:08:05] Is it hard to get information out of the gang whose member was shot?
Scott [00:08:09] Oh, yeah. I’ll tell you why. That same night, sometime around midnight or so, the girlfriend who’s a member of Players, knows who shot her boyfriend. She walks up to the house. She knocks on the door. The rival gangster who shot her boyfriend’s mom answers the door. This female proceeds to convince mom to go get her son. Son comes walking up. As soon as the son gets to the door girlfriend raises the gun, boom, boom, boom, he goes down.
Yeardley [00:08:39] That is so brazen. The females in the gang are just as likely to be carrying a gun as the male gang members?
Chris [00:08:47] Yeah. At the taco shop, when the girlfriend was there, she took the gun from her boyfriend, shoved it in her waistband, was in the backseat of our police officer’s car, and he drove her home. We normally back then you don’t search females, and the whole time when he’s taking her home, she had this gun in the waistband. That was the same gun she used to kill this other guy.
Scott [00:09:07] So, she shoots this guy dead.
Yeardley [00:09:09] In front of his mother?
Scott [00:09:10] Right. There you have it. That’s this gang that we’re looking at in this Player’s case, that’s a little bit of their history. Another person at that shooting was Whacko from Players.
Yeardley [00:09:22] Is that a name?
Scott [00:09:23] That’s a gang name, and that happened to be the first gang member that I interviewed or talked to by myself as a police officer, and it was at our famous street fair.
Yeardley [00:09:35] What’s that?
Scott [00:09:35] The street fair’s a community event that’s been happening in our city for years. They cut off a mile block of road and they just do carnival rides, and it is awesome. The police officers love it. We get to dress up like bike riders for four days and pound the pavement on bikes. It’s great though. Obviously, it’s zero tolerance. At the street fair, we keep it really family friendly. I, as the new guy, was booking all the people that were getting brought to the makeshift jail. Then, as soon as I had eight or nine, we’d put them into this paddy wagon van, per se, I’d drive them to the station and book them in the jail, and then come back. I was like a transport officer. I didn’t get to go do the fun stuff.
The first person they brought into jail was Whacko. I remember thinking like, “Oh, man, he’s got tattoos on his face in his head. This guy looks scary.”
Scott [00:10:26] My FTO tells me, “Yeah, this is Whacko from Players. You’ve got to watch out for this guy.” I remember thinking like, “Oh, man, okay.” I think it was like two weeks later, Whacko was shot and killed.
Yeardley [00:10:35] By the girl?
Scott [00:10:36] No, unrelated separate case. I mean, there’s going to be multiple shootings we talk about here. We’ll try to clarify that. But, yeah, separate incident, unrelated, just being a gangster and got shot.
Yeardley [00:10:47] How old?
Scott [00:10:48] Probably around 22. We’re not talking about seasoned 35-year-old men in these cases. These cases largely start with juveniles and work their way up to 20 something.
Chris [00:11:02] At age 22, age 23, they’ve already been eight, nine years part of the gang. So, they’re like the OG members of this gang, and all these little kids are up-and-comers, want to be like these guys, like 22-23.
Dave [00:11:13] And they make all the younger guys do really the dirty work.
Chris [00:11:16] Oh, yeah. And that’s what we’re seeing this day and age right now, mainly crimes involving juvenile because juvenile law is just–
Phil [00:11:23] The laws now as the juveniles is such that we don’t even prosecute juveniles as adults at this point that are the actual killers, bad criminal history, actual killers that keeping them in the juvenile system, not even taken to adult court.
Yeardley [00:11:35] Why is that, didn’t they used to?
Phil [00:11:37] They used to, but there’s been a lot of changes in the laws in last year, that have changed that. We have to prove as prosecutors that they’re unrehabilitatable. And if we can’t do that, they’re kept in juvenile court, which means they get released at age 23, no matter what they did.
Scott [00:11:50] Which is terrible to work with as a police officer, because now you know that these 23-, 24-year-olds have more incentive to use the 16, 17, 15 year old to go out and make a name for this gang. They know, “Hey, don’t worry about it, you can take the heat because there’s no consequences. You’re just going to come back.”
Yeardley [00:12:08] Okay.
Scott [00:12:09] Because of this longstanding history of this Players gang and other gangs in the city, the CIT team began to develop a pretty solid way of dealing with the violence. There’s always going to be property crimes and graffiti and burglaries to cars in every city across in the US. Police departments do the best they can to mitigate that, through patrols, through community relations. Then, that crime jumps to the people getting hurt. That’s when it’s like, okay, cities need to come in and really focus on the robberies and assault with a deadly weapon. What are cities doing to focus on that, because you can still prosecute violent crimes. CIT had developed this way of going after gangsters after a lot of shootings. It was parole, probation, it was door knocks, it was– they call it jamming people up. Who are we going to go jam up today? Who are we’re going to get today? Who are we’re going to surveil today? It was this pressure, pressure, pressure. Let them know we know. We’ll get two-man units. We’ll just go up and down the same streets for eight hours, and just circle like sharks around the whole street and let them know we know. We develop search warrants based off of crimes in the city that we could connect to these Players. We started doing that as a means to fight against it, and it worked. We started that way in this case too.
Dan [00:13:34] Hey, this is Detective Dan from Small Town Dicks. I want to thank you all for listening. You, Small Town Fam, make this podcast possible. So, I’d like to ask you to consider becoming a patron to help support future seasons of Small Town Dicks. Your small monthly donation, the cost of a single cup of coffee, and maybe a doughnut will help cover operating costs, travel to and from the small towns we highlight, and golf lessons for Dave. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to keep this boat afloat. To thank you for your support, you’ll get access to a whole bunch of goodies, like suspect interviews, 911 calls, insider interviews, and more. To join the Small Town Super Fam, go to patreon.com/smalltowndickspodcast. There’s already some cool stuff waiting there for you. Whatever you choose to do, thank you for being a listener. No podcast fans are better than you.
Yeardley [00:14:39] So, the Players gang is wreaking havoc throughout your city. They don’t even wait for cover of darkness to commit their crimes. They just do it whenever and however they feel like, and that’s the backdrop for the case you came to share with us today.
Scott [00:14:52] Right. So, I’m going to let Chris explain the beginning of this case and what occurred that led to the involvement of CIT.
Chris [00:14:59] It happened on January 9th many, many years ago. Our patrol got a call, shots fired in the area in our city off of Chestnut. Nobody was hit. It was just shots fired. Within a minute of the shots fired, an officer arrives and gets information, “Hey, it’s a white SUV last seen southbound.” Usually, shots fired call, lot officers are going to converge in that area. I think it was a pretty solid night that night. A lot officers were in route. As the officer was putting out that information, another officer is coming in sees a white SUV hauling really fast from the area. He puts out, “Hey, I’m following the vehicle.” They ended up following and stopped on the street in front of a known Players’ house. Occupants tried to come out, a huge high-risk stop is where– detain the people and have them walk them out one by one, hands up in the air. I think it was nine officers and one civilian that was on scene, multiple cars. They’re on this other street with his car, detained all the occupants.
Yeardley [00:15:58] Just to clarify, the cops are on a street that’s not Chestnut, detaining the white SUV?
Chris [00:16:04] Yes.
Yeardley [00:16:05] Okay, I got it.
Chris [00:16:06] Now, they’re finding a handgun in a door panel of the vehicle, so they’re thinking, “Okay, this is good. We have our actual gun right here.” I’d say about 25 minutes into this stop, they’re preparing the three occupants of the vehicle, all three hardcore Player gang members in the vehicle. Two of them are parolees. They’re bagging their hands to conduct a gunshot residue kit just to determine who’s the actual shooter. Twenty-five minutes into the call, the officers start taking fire from the north from the train tracks. Train tracks were probably about half a block away from where the stop happened. We have a huge train track that runs east to west in our city. Officers start ducking, officers hear the gunshots whizzing by their heads, they see the rounds skipping on the ground in front of them.
Yeardley [00:16:54] But they can’t see who’s shooting.
Chris [00:16:55] They can’t see who’s shooting. They just know it’s coming from north of them. They don’t know who’s shooting, they’re just taking fire.
Yeardley [00:17:00] Are the shots coming from a car?
Chris [00:17:02] At that point, they didn’t know. They just knew that it was coming from north and it was six or seven shots.
Dave [00:17:07] And it’s pretty effective fire. If they can hear it going by their head, that’s close
Scott [00:17:12] There are reports of officers hearing it skip a ricochet off the cement in between their legs, like [imitating bullets ricocheting].
Dave [00:17:19] Yeah, that’s not just indiscriminate fire, they’re aiming at you.
Scott [00:17:22] Well, I want to slow this scene down for everyone listening because it goes quick, and I think it’s important to provide some context on this. Imagine there’s nine officers and a civilian. In this time, all nine police cars are there, and their lights and sirens are on. It’s obvious there’s police presence in this area. This is a high risk stop where they’re using a PA to announce to the drivers to get their hands up to come out. This is not like a one-car traffic stop where officers are talking to someone at a door. This is a scene now. You probably have officers on the sides of the streets making sure no one’s coming out of their houses. You have obviously an arrest team. You have a few officers that are watching the sides of the cars, they’re going to safely extract the driver and whoever else is in that car. Their guns are out and there’s just a shooting down the street. This is the suspect vehicle that was seen leaving at a high rate of speed, and there’s not that many white Tahoes driving on the street at 10:00 at night.
[00:18:22] Now you have this scene where, “Okay, we probably just stopped the car that did a shooting.” So, adrenaline’s going, you’re starting to get a little that fight or flight, where you’re, “Okay. Hey, who’s going to come out of this car? Is it going to hurt me?” And so, you’re up a little bit. In those situations, once you get all the occupants of that vehicle out, and to your police unit, that adrenaline starts to come down a little bit, and you’re like, “All right, we think that’s clear,” and then the next thing you hear is [imitates gunshots] It’s like you go now from this heightened sense to really kind of a jovial, relaxing sense, right back instantaneous, to this super adrenaline kick.
Yeardley [00:19:04] Just tell me, why is this civilian there?
Chris [00:19:07] It was an employee of our PD, but it’s not a police officer. So, it was like the community service officer riding with one of the police officers at night.
Yeardley [00:19:14] I see. Like a ride-along?
Chris [00:19:15] No, it’s just a we call them civilian, but they’re not sworn officers. It’s just a community service officer who doesn’t wear a gun. He just takes reports–
Dave [00:19:23] Breaking into a car, stuff like that.
Chris [00:19:26] All these officers are taking cover, are advising over the radio, “Hey, we’re taking shots. It seems that’s coming from the north. Can we start establishing a perimeter?” And as they’re waiting for all these things, one of the officers thought he got shot, and officers are converging on him. They’re about to tear off his pants because they think he got shot. It’s kind of funny, telling the story, but at that moment going back to the mindset of that officer, he really thought he got shot. It just so happened that because they were laying on the ground for so long, his leg fell asleep.
Yeardley [00:19:57] (laughs)
Scott [00:19:59] Yeah, what happened, as he dove to get out of the way, actually smacked his knee on the curb, and then he sat on it forever, while he was taking cover, and it fell asleep on him, but it hurt. When he came back to, everything calms down, they started checking everyone for, “Hey, check in. Are you okay? Okay. Yes. Are you okay? Yes.” The dispatch is checking in with everybody, and that’s when this officer thought, “I may have got hit in my leg.” Then, you have this huge convergence, and then they start patting him down and looking for something in his leg-
Yeardley [00:20:28] Comes back to life.
Scott [00:20:29] -came back to life.
Chris [00:20:31] This was a pretty traumatic event for officers who’ve never been shot at before, especially with the rounds whizzing by them and skipping on the floor. In his mindset, he thought he got shot. It actually affected him pretty traumatically over the years where he needed to seek out some help. This established a perimeter, had to come out with evacuation team to take all the officers out and the prisoners because we had three prisoners, because they’re also victims at that point.
Yeardley [00:20:57] The prisoners are the three men in the white SUV, yes?
Chris [00:21:01] Yes. They take everybody out of the perimeter, they ended up finding 30 caliber–
Phil [00:21:06] 30-caliber rifle around six of them.
Chris [00:21:08] Six of them up at the train track.
Yeardley Is that big?
Phil [00:21:10] Big, hunting rifle, pretty much. 30-caliber M1 carbine, World War I rifle.
Chris [00:21:15] We’re going to get into the importance of that rifle because it led into some different cases involving that gun prior to the shooting. I remember that night, Detective Scott, myself and detective John, who were all part of the Crime Impact team, we all got called, it’s like, “Hey, we just had a shooting, we needed you to both come in.”
Scott [00:21:35] In this particular call, I remember getting from Sergeant Hanna, who was a sergeant of CIT at the time. She said, “Hey, you’ve got to come in. We just have guy shot at about nine of us.” And I was like, “Are you kidding me right now?” She was like, “No,” was like, first question, “Is everyone good? Is everyone okay? Yeah. Okay, I’m coming in. I’ll be there. 40 minutes. It’s really long drive, going to be there in 40 minutes.” So, you get there, and you see, “Okay, where are we going? What’s happening?” By the time I get there, which is probably an hour into this crime scene, I could not believe how many resources and how many teams are up and operating already. This was all in motion and I kind of say, “Okay, what do you need from me? Where am I going?” And then they just tell you, “You go help them here.” “Okay.”
Dave [00:22:17] And you guys have neighboring agencies offering help, too?
Scott [00:22:20] Yeah.
Chris [00:22:21] Yeah, the sheriff’s department responded out and helped with the perimeter. We used the sheriff’s department’s crime lab to come out and process our scene, which was one of the things that was happening. When we arrived, we were the fresh eyes and like, “Alright, you guys are going to run with this and figure out what’s going to happen.” At that moment, the three guys who were in that white SUV were brought into our station. I think me and Scott interviewed all three. I think each of them pretty much did pounce and, “We’re not going to talk to you.”
Scott [00:22:49] Let’s talk about each of the individuals that were in that car. These are the suspects in the shooting that had just occurred on a street that was north of them.
Yeardley [00:22:57] This shooting on Chestnut Street where no one was hit?
Scott [00:23:00] Yes. We instantly knew who they were. They parked right in front of a gangster that we all know as Chucky. They parked right in front of this house. When these suspects are extracted, you have the driver of this car who ends up being Payaso. Then, you have the two passengers in this car who ended up being Chucky, who lives there, and another gang member, Green Eyes. You have these three players, all together in front of Chucky’s after shooting was up the street in a rival gang area. Two of those three are on active parole with parole status. They shouldn’t even be together. You automatically have this– well, yeah, you get three gangsters in the same car at night, two of them are parolees, which used to be a really good barometer of if you are a truly rehabilitatable character or not. Now that doesn’t exist, so you never even know when you stop these people.
Yeardley [00:23:53] What do you mean?
Scott [00:23:54] Well, back in this time period, people were on parole if they had been in state prison, and they’d been convicted of a violent offense, and these people you needed to know they were on parole. Well, from what I’ve gathered is, over the years, law enforcement now is not encountering anyone on parole. You don’t have this first sign that saying this person could be dangerous. Just pay attention, be on your toes here.
Yeardley [00:24:15] I don’t understand why don’t you have that information.
Phil [00:24:17] The laws have changed. We don’t have the same length of parole or the same quantity of people being placed on parole when they leave state prison. They’ve changed it such that certain crimes, you don’t go to real prison, you stay in what’s called local confinement, you stay in the local jail system. Never go to prison. So, when they get released on a type of parole, it lasts for a much shorter period of time. It doesn’t have the same search and seizure and the same teeth that used to have just literally five years ago.
Yeardley [00:24:43] That would be so scary as law enforcement.
Chris [00:24:46] Yeah, so as Scott was saying these three guys, Payaso, Green Eyes, and Chucky were kind of like the main guys that we were incurring in the city who were kind of running the gang at that moment.
Scott [00:24:56] We’ve known these guys for years. You deal with these individuals on a per-shift basis.
Yeardley [00:25:04] A per-shift basis, like every shift?
Scott [00:25:08] Yes. In this time period, at our agency, we had a lot of people working. We have a lot less officers working now. They’re spread thin, but they’re still accomplishing quite a bit of the same work output. Multilocation search warrants and gang suppression, they’re able to do it. I think that just speaks to the dedication of these teams that have less people, but yet, really tried to output what was once done with more officers.
Phil [00:25:33] Back then, how many officers in your city total?
Chris [00:25:35] At that point, that was probably in the low 90s or high 80s.
Phil [00:25:39] Which is tiny, for the record. That’s a tiny amount of officers.
Chris [00:25:42] And the size of the city is about 100,000 residents.
Yeardley [00:25:44] Okay.
Scott [00:25:45] So, in this time period, we were still a dedicated Crime Impact Team. Mainly, we were out there looking for gang members, and identifying where they lived, where their girlfriends live, what cars they drove, what stores did they shop at, where would you see them frequently if they weren’t at home, stuff like that.
Phil [00:26:00] Why that’s important is that when something breaks out, and you get intel that it’s gang member X, you then have all this intel, and you can run with it and get being solved much more quickly.
Scott [00:26:10] Right. So, in this particular case, you have these three guys.
Chris [00:26:13] Payaso, Green Eyes, and Chucky.
Scott [00:26:15] Yeah. And now we start door knocking to see what’s going on. We developed information that told us obviously someone was shooting on the tracks and they were seen running away. Someone shot at two police officers during a high-risk felony stop on the Players. Three main dudes that we have all known as bad gangsters, they found the gun in the car. Obviously, the shootings now shaping up, was this retaliation. We’re trying to get the Players. This is retaliation for the shooting that just occurred.
Yeardley [00:26:41] When you guys were receiving fire across the train tracks, they were going after the Players, not after the cops?
Chris [00:26:47] We didn’t know that at that moment.
Scott [00:26:49] That was just a possible, who would shoot, right? Because someone hitting the cops, was it retaliation? What’s going on here?
Chris [00:26:56] We arrive on scene. We have multiple different things going on. We have these three guys are in jail. It’s like, “Okay, what do we need to do?” “Okay, we need to interview these three guys.” Nobody said anything. All we had was the possession of the gun. And that first shooting on Chestnut was kind of forgotten because we now we’re dealing with officers being shot at. Okay, let’s start processing the scene. Then we started getting multiple callers who were saying, “Hey, these people out here, were mimicking holding some type of gun, and were pointing and shooting.” They provided an address, which was two blocks away. We got into some undercover vehicles and established surveillance around this area.
[00:27:33] I think we were on there for a good deal till 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, and then we got relieved by our varsity team and went and got couple hours of sleep. We came back, and when we came back, the varsity team had followed some people that left this house, ended up pulling over some people. They arrested one of these guys for DUI at the station. He’s like, “Hey, man, is this about the gun that I found in the alley? I wasn’t the shooter.” It’s like, “Oh, hang on here. Let’s slow it down here.” One of our detectives from the varsity team interviewed him. He’s basically saying that there’s this car that drove through the alley, they dumped the gun in there.
Scott [00:28:11] Yeah, they dumped a gun in the alleyway.
Chris [00:28:13] Then the guy picked up the gun, but we later found that– one of the guys called him, “Hey, I dumped the gun. Go put it away for us.”
Yeardley [00:28:19] Wait, so the guy who found the gun was actually related to the guys who shot?
Scott [00:28:23] Yeah.
Yeardley [00:28:24] Okay. What’s the name of the guy who picked up the gun?
Chris [00:28:27] George.
Scott [00:28:28] Yeah, they knew him. He was not related to the gang, but they knew he lived there. He dumped the gun there like a dumpster to someone’s house he knew.
Yeardley [00:28:36] I see, and said, “Go get the gun.”
Scott [00:28:39] “Hey, I just dumped this gun over there in a dumpster, go grab it for me. We’ll get it later.” Hot commodity to have a gun like that out there.
Chris [00:28:45] Then, one of our detectives got a warrant for his house. We went in, served the warrant. And sure enough, we found the gun in there, it was a sawed off 30-caliber M1 carbine rifle, pretty high-powered gun.
Yeardley [00:28:58] So, now the gun that was used to shoot at the cops from the railroad tracks is in your possession?
Scott [00:29:05] Yeah, the stock had been removed, so it was just like the pistol grip and the rifle to hold it.
Phil [00:29:12] It has the appearance of a sawed-off shotgun with pistol grip, but it was a rifle.
Yeardley [00:29:16] What’s the point of that?
Chris [00:29:17] It’s for concealment purposes.
Phil [00:29:19] And that makes it harder to shoot that way, which is good in this case, because the scene discussion that tracks when the five or so police vehicles were parked, the tracks that were behind them, north of them are a little bit elevated.
Yeardley [00:29:30] The train tracks are?
Phil [00:29:31] Yeah, the street kind of goes up and it probably elevates maybe 15 feet from the shooting location to the top of the tracks. The shooter was shooting from the tracks, which is shooting down with this gun. If you’re within 50 feet, you’re going to hit your target maybe, but we’re talking probably 300 feet from victim’s location to shooter location. That gun with that elevation, it’d be hard to necessarily nail your target right on.
Scott [00:29:52] And so when they’re interviewing this guy, George, who recovered the gun, he’s not gang related whatsoever, but he said that he had received some phone calls from a guy named Tito, and another guy named Tony, basically saying, “Hey, that’s my gun, hang on to it.”
Yeardley [00:30:06] Is George obligated to do that? Because if he’s not, they’ll fuck him up?
Chris [00:30:11] He’s not obligated, but he mentioned saying that he didn’t want some random kid picking it up, so he had a duty to pick it up, so he said, but who knows?
Scott [00:30:18] There’s no indications he himself would use it in an illegal manner.
Chris [00:30:22] But at that point, we’re still kind of like, “Okay, who was responsible for the shooting?” Because we don’t know at that point. This is the next day. I think two days after that is when we went back to the initial shooting on Chestnut and recanvassed what was going on. Scott ended up finding some more rounds from the same rifle. It wasn’t that little gun that we found in their door panel that was used, it was actually the rifle. At that point is like, okay, both these shootings are connected. It was the same gang, who now we’ve figured out they were shooting at us. They were actually shooting at us.
Yeardley [00:30:53] Sorry, Chris. Let me just back this up for a second. You find evidence that the bullets from your original shooting from the white SUV come from the rifle?
Chris [00:31:06] Yes.
Yeardley [00:31:06] Oh.
Chris [00:31:07] So, there was a fourth person that was possibly in that white vehicle who actually was a shooter. At some point, during them leaving the first shooting and getting stopped, ended up getting out of that vehicle.
Yeardley [00:31:18] Got it.
Chris [00:31:18] Right.
Scott [00:31:18] I believe there was a witness that said the person was not in a vehicle when they shot, that they were outside the vehicle when they shot.
Yeardley [00:31:25] When they shot by the train tracks.
Scott [00:31:26] Yeah. That’s consistent with, they’re either following someone or they let him off and he went somewhere else. The same guns at both locations now, which led us to think, “Well, I mean, maybe it was them shooting at us, this wasn’t just the rival shooting. This was actually a target at law enforcement.”
Dave [00:31:45] Well, and you think about it too, three of their brothers are right there and they’re receiving fire also. This guy’s obviously no marksman, with this modified rifle, he could have very easily hit one of his guys. And that round is going to go through a police car, it’ll go right through the door, it’ll probably go through the gang member, and it might even go out the other door.
Chris [00:32:06] And we’ll get into that later because this was a year and a half investigation that happened. We found out at the end why it happened. When Scott says going back, that witness saw the shooter at the train tracks, they saw him running back to a dark-colored vehicle that left, the witnesses who said about these guys in the alley, also said, yeah, there was a dark vehicle that ran through the alley really fast.
Phil [00:32:27] There was a question asked about for the civilians in terms of firearms evidence. Scott didn’t find a bullet or a fragment of a bullet, he found what’s called the cartridge case, or expended casing. Casing is not the right term in court for us, we use the word expired or expended cartridge case, so he found one or two cartridge cases at the first scene.
Yeardley [00:32:44] Which is Chestnut Street.
Phil [00:32:46] Yeah, we found six matching cartridge cases at the second scene. Visually, you can say this appears to be the same rifle. They’re unusual, they’re not 9 millimeter, they’re not 40 caliber, they’re 45s or 30 caliber rifle rounds. That’s odd. So, logically, you can conclude probably same gun. We had it forensically examined, tool mark examiner, firearms expert, ballistics expert determined they were in fact fired from that same gun to 100% certainty to the exclusion of every other firearm ever made in history.
Yeardley [00:33:13] Oh, God!
Phil [00:33:14] Which is what we always do, but it wasn’t bullets. When the bullet separates upon being fired in the semi-automatic firearm like this, the bullet goes down the barrel, the cartridge case gets kicked out and a new round is placed in the chamber. The bullets went everywhere down the street, and we found chunks of bullets and parts of bullets way far away.
Chris [00:33:30] In neighbor’s grass, vehicles. One wall got hit.
Phil [00:33:34] This round was packed with a slug round, so it will go right through doors through body armor.
Chris [00:33:38] We found the casings on Chestnut, and at that point, we also had two previous shootings that happened two weeks ago involving the same gun. There’s not much to investigate other than the witness said the guy yelled out Players, so we knew that it was involving Players, but we had no workable information as far as what suspect did it.
Scott [00:33:56] One other shooting that occurred prior to this, we used to have a technology called the ShotSpotter. It was technology that worked off satellites and antennas throughout the city strategically placed that if a shot, like a gunshot came out, it would detect and alert our dispatch center right away saying shots fired in this area. Pretty expensive, pretty cool technology, helped a little bit. I don’t know if it helps to the point where you could justify the money spent on it. But in this particular case, it helped because there’s one shooting that occurred where there was really no evidence as to who shot until you heard the ShotSpotter, because after the shooting in the ShotSpotter you hear, “Players fool!”
Chris [00:34:37] That was four days prior to the officers being shot at. Players go into rival territory. Shots fired. Obviously, the ShotSpotter picked it up, basically triangulate and pinpoint exactly where the shots happened. And it picks up audio and it happened to pick up the voice saying, “Players fool!”, and then you hear the shots, pop, pop, pop. The same casings were found that day, nobody was hit, but now you have four different shootings involving that same rifle.
Dave [00:35:03] So, you guys go to where the ShotSpotter says, and then you look around and you find these spent cartridges on the ground?
Chris [00:35:09] Yeah.
Yeardley [00:35:10] When you find a gun, like that sawed-off shotgun, is that it belongs to everybody in the gang kind of gun? Is it a community tool for them? Or, it does belong to one guy?
Scott [00:35:20] It’s passed around. They’re not going to give it to anybody because that’s a pretty heavy gun to carry. But it was evident that they had it and they were using it.
Phil [00:35:29] But as it turned out, in our situation here, the same dude was using the gun every single shooting.
Chris [00:35:35] Yes.
Phil [00:35:35] So, it was a community gun, but one dude was out there putting in work with this gun at all these shootings.
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Scott [00:37:33] I remember, as we’re investigating this, now there’s a little bit of jurisdictional investigative polling going on in the situation because you have some detectives who want to follow this evidence and investigate it out of the detective bureau, which is typically what occurs in a case like this. Then, you have this Crime Impact Team that’s largely patrol based, instead of a detective bureau base, it’s patrol based. But everything that’s occurred up to this time has been conducted and investigated by CIT, which is this specialty gang unit. As well it should, because the expertise on all these people lied within CIT at that time. Not that the people in detective bureau didn’t have it too because they did, because some of those officers had been previously on CIT leading to the detective bureau. But during this particular time, everything was being done by CIT, the Black Shirts.
[00:38:22] Our Sergeant and Lieutenant were like, “No, we’re going to see this thing through now, with all the follow-up.” At this time, it’s still being co-cased, and then CIT went out, man. We knew how to handle gang crimes.
Yeardley [00:38:35] Right. You have the most face time with them.
Scott [00:38:37] Right. What we decided to do in the next phase was that pressure, and we’re going to use every aspect of our legal means to investigate the Players. We’re going to first start with probation and parole searches. We’re going to get into pulling back crimes and linking crimes, like Chris said, so that we start doing some multilocation search warrants, and we’re going to hammer them. They’re going to know about it. Everybody knew this police department wanted to go after the Players for that shooting. In all actuality, during this investigation, most gang crime kind of tapered away for a little bit because they knew better watch it, that team’s pulling out all the stops. One of the first things we did is we went and did walking foot beats.
Chris [00:39:18] Yeah. Couple days into this, we figured out it was Players. We figured out a couple of people who might have been involved. Tito, we didn’t know his actual involvement, we just knew that he was taking claim for this gun. At that point, we didn’t really know who he was. Interviewed some other guys who kind of pointed us in the right direction. The first two guys going back to Chucky and Green Eyes, back then, if you get violated for parole, it was a one-year stint, just for associating.
Yeardley [00:39:45] So, they’d have to go back to prison for one year just for hanging out together?
Chris [00:39:50] Yeah, one year, associating. So, those guys went away right away that same night, they were done, a year.
Phil [00:39:56] Two thoughts. Parole and probation have been mentioned bunch of times. You can’t search someone’s house or their car, or their phone, or their computer, or their person without a warrant, unless there’s other exceptions, but one of the exceptions are, if you’re on probation– when I take a guilty plea in a case involving a gang member, I’ll make sure that he agrees that he has to give up his right to a search warrant so we can search him day or night without a warrant. It’s called search conditions that applies to all probationary cases involving gang members, unless the DA makes mistake and doesn’t make them agree to that. On parole, the prison system does it automatically, you can’t associate with gang members, unless you’re going to church or they’re in your family, stuff like that. There’s exceptions that make logical sense. Then, parole also has a search-and-seizure condition. They don’t need a warrant.
Chris [00:40:37] Yeah, going back, we were trying to figure out what type of investigative means to do, so that’s when Scott said, we’re doing probation parole, I think two weeks into it. We did a foot beat throughout the whole area, walking door to door, we did a couple of probation and parole checks. One of them on a guy by the name of Snoopy, who was going to be very important later down the road. We did a parole check at his house, he wasn’t there that night. Then, the next day, we found out that he got stopped in a different neighboring city associating with another gang member from the same gang by the name of Criminal. That night, Snoopy got picked up by another agency because he had a warrant for his arrest from a different neighboring agency. Then, when we found that out, Scott got ahold of the parole agent and said, “Hey, can we violate him for associating?” “Sure.” Snoopy went away for a year right away. We find out that, this guy Tito was also in this car stopped in this neighboring city with Snoopy and Criminal.
Scott [00:41:29] All three together.
Yeardley [00:41:31] They get around.
Scott [00:41:31] Right, this is leading up to this crime. So, now we’re like, “Oh, hold on.” Those look like good suspects for this shooting.
Yeardley [00:41:37] For your first shooting.
Scott [00:41:39] And the second one towards the officers. That’s the importance of jurisdictional communication. You want to have a good relationship with the police departments that are surrounding the city you’re patrolling. Any crime that occurs in our city, the suspects are going to take off into their city. So, if you have really good communications, some of these agencies pretty much scan each other’s radios too, that’s when you start getting a hold of the other gang units. “Hey, we’re looking for these Players. Have you seen them with any tickets, with any parking tickets, with any field identification cards?”
Yeardley [00:42:10] What’s that?
Scott [00:42:12] If an officer stopped somebody for any reason, and they’re talking to them, they can fill out a field identification card, which just is basically people’s information for later contacts. You start to develop where these people lay their heads out or where they walk around, based off of these field identification cards.
Dan [00:42:30] What car they’re associated with, what other people are in the car with them.
Dave [00:42:34] What they were wearing.
Dan [00:42:35] You put all those things on this little FI card.
Yeardley [00:42:38] Current stats.
Scott [00:42:39] Right. And so, these people were ticketed, but the officer did a diligent enough job to further that by filling now the field identification cards of the people that were in the car during this ticket.
Yeardley [00:42:51] In this case, those people are Tito, Snoopy, and Criminal.
Scott [00:42:55] Correct, which is golden for court and golden for us to know who’s there because that’s more pressure we can put on them.
Phil [00:43:03] In court, I’d have to prove that certain people were in the gang, and you do that in a variety of ways, tattoos, where they live, if it’s in the territory of the gang, and these FI cards are hugely helpful. FI cards have been historically a critical part of proving people are in a gang, and it helps my gang expert, a witness usually a gang expert. In this case, it was gang expert, sound truthful and reasonable and accurate.
Yeardley [00:43:22] And is the gang expert, a member of the gang or just somebody who studies these gangs?
Phil [00:43:27] Gang experts can be either. In this situation, Officer Derek was a very, very good longtime Players gang expert, a cop. That said, we called at least two people in this case that were in the gang, so they’re tatted up themselves. They say, “Yeah, this guy’s a gang member. He’s a gang member,” and so forth. That helps. So, we have both. It’s great to have both. You get a jury to buy into what we’re saying. It’s nice to have the intel, but it’s also nice to have maybe a fellow gang member to also support that, and we had that. Ultimately way down the road, we eventually had that.
Scott [00:43:55] I think February came around and we hit a snag. We obviously knew that the gang was responsible for the shootings, but we didn’t know who. At that point, we had one of our detectives who was assigned to a Federal Task Force and his main responsibilities was doing wiretaps. He told, “Hey, why don’t you guys do a wiretap? The federal agency will fund this wiretap,” because it’s expensive to fund a wiretap, an agency our size could never fund something like that. It costs way over $100,000 because it’s 24/7 live monitoring.
Chris [00:44:27] Depends on how long the investigation goes, but it can range. It’s a lengthy investigative technique that’s pretty much reserved for the investigations that have already used every other investigative technique prior to this intrusiveness called a wire. The necessity and the cause you must show goes, sometimes, in my opinion, far and above what you even need to prove this case in court.
Phil [00:44:54] This is getting in listening live time to your cell phone and/or home landline, that’s hardcore intrusive. The judge has to look at that, as[?] one judge who does this, and he has come with him with 100-page affidavit with all your details to get the approval to do this.
Scott [00:45:06] Prior to that, think about the investigation that had already been done in the span of a month. We mentioned a little bit, parole probation, consensual encounters, streamlined surveillance on these targets’ subjects. We were just right on him all the time.
Chris [00:45:19] Prior to the wiretap, our sheriff’s department helped us out on the operation at the jail. It wasn’t a Perkins operation. A Perkins operation is when you place undercovers in there to mingle with these other criminals or other gangsters, but we had them wire up a jail cell in their facility. Mind you, we were still kind of new to this investigative means and trying to figure out what we do. These guys were already in county jail. So, they wired up this room, and then they placed these guys in there.
Yeardley [00:45:47] Which guys?
Chris [00:45:48] Snoopy, Green Eyes, and Chucky. They were all in custody in different days. So, they were already at this kind of facility and they were moved into this room. We heard it when we started listening to these recordings after the fact, they’re like, “Oh, this isn’t odd or random that we were placed in this room,” because we were still kind of new, we didn’t know how to do it.
Scott [00:46:07] That first go wasn’t the greatest. We’d never done this. People had, we hadn’t, and so we’re really flying by the seat of our pants. We’re coming up with cool ideas of things we’ve heard done, and now we’re actually trying to go do them. We’d just drive to the sheriff’s department, knock on the door and say, “Hey, this is where we’re from. This is what we’ve got going on. We want to try to get him to say something in your custody. Can you do that?” And then, they tell us what they do, and we’d say, “Okay, go ahead and do it.” It’s funny when a smaller department goes to a larger department, and pretty much begs for help. We’re sitting with these sergeants and lieutenant and some deputies that are involved in this gang unit inside the gels, and they’re looking at us, like, “You guys have no clue what we do.” We’re like, “No, we just want to be able to listen to them. Can we listen to them? Can you put them close to each other?”
Chris [00:46:57] Mistakes were made early on. We’ve learned from those things, and then until we got DA Phil on board, it’s when everything kind of came into place a little bit. In February, this detective, Manny, who’s at this Federal Task Force presented it to our bosses and our bosses were all for it. At that point, it was like, okay, who are we going to send? They’re like, “Well, what about Chris?” I’ve been on the unit for six months, I’ve only been an officer for two and a half years, and I’ve never even read in a search warrant in my life. Like, “Hey, go up to the Federal Task Force and you’re going to go on wiretap.” I’m like, “Oh, okay, I don’t know how to do this, but I’m going to learn.”
Scott [00:47:29] Search warrant is hard enough, is a good six-hour project is do a basic search, warrant. Wiretap, you’re talking full time for a week. Then, the monitoring later becomes all-in project for as long as the judge allows for the wiretap to continue. You don’t do anything else, this is all you do. Wiretap is like way above your paygrade. Not anymore, Chris.
Scott [00:47:49] I was shocked to think that a guy who had never written a search warrant was now doing a wiretap, which is usually, say, for the homicide detectives and the sheriff’s department that have been cops for 20 years, that doesn’t fit the normal situation.
Chris [00:48:00] It’s more than just writing though. It’s writing for the convincing of something. Sure, you’re setting down facts on a paper, but you’re linking those facts.
Yeardley [00:48:08] You’re making a case.
Chris [00:48:10] Right, you’re making a case. It’s almost argumentative. This is why this is this, and this is what I believe, and this is what the facts are saying. That takes time, but then you have to coordinate the people that are doing the surveillance, and you have to make sure the reports are coming to you, and you have to do all this other stuff.
Scott [00:48:25] So, somebody is listening live time, and they’re like, cell phone, text message, phone call, “Get out to this location right now, they’re about to do X.” That’s the team he’s talking about. That’s the surveillance team that’s out there just waiting for intel to get them to a crime scene where crime was happening.
Chris [00:48:39] And so our varsity team, this narcotics surveillance unit, they’re helping, but they also help in the narcotics cases outside the city. A lot of this real quick live-time surveillance would be relayed directly from like the wire room from Chris to me, or Detective Danny or Detective John, someone else on CIT, where it was like, “Looking for a shooting, they’re going to look to somebody shoot, right now go saturate the area.”
Scott [00:49:04] And think of how big of a mess it would be if the city if they hear, “We’re looking for somebody right now to kill,” and they don’t go Stop that. In many ways, this doesn’t sound very sensitive, but it’s better for the case to let the crime happened, and then we can prove it that way, but you’re way better off to save people’s lives ahead of time. So, it’s kind of yin and the yang of how you deal with this.
Chris [00:49:20] It may seem like that, but you have to stop it.
Yeardley [00:49:23] Of course, you do.
Dave [00:49:24] Writing search warrants, and certainly I’ve never written a wiretap warrant or something like that, but you have to put the good and the bad into those search warrants. The exculpatory stuff, people don’t realize, “Hey, that doesn’t really help our case. We got to keep that out.” If you’re keeping out exculpatory stuff, you’re going about this process the wrong way, and it’s not being honest with the court. So, it’s incredibly important for Scott when he’s writing this, even if he gets information that doesn’t necessarily help his case, you have to put that in so the court knows how to weigh everything.
Dan [00:49:59] And the best way to learn how to write a search warrant is to write a search warrant and talk to a DA who’s kicking it back to you. I mean, I remember the first ones that I ever wrote, and it takes forever to write, especially your first one. Especially if it’s a wiretap, it takes forever to write these, and then you get it back, and it’s just red pen all over, I’m like, “You’re not even close, dude. Try again.”
Chris [00:50:21] I went up to the federal agency in February, and we didn’t get approved until probably mid-March. So, it was about month and a half, and it was a 67-page affidavit.
Scott [00:50:31] Trying to put trackers on cars or GPS ping a phone, just all sorts of things that we had to get done prior.
Dave [00:50:38] And you think about trying to put a GPS tracker on somebody’s car, especially in the neighborhood, because these are gang neighborhoods, and there are eyes everywhere. You got to get in and out of there without getting detected by these guys. Like, “Hey, what’s he doing dipping into that driveway?” I’ve been a part of putting a GPS tracker. I mean, talk about adrenaline. Oh, yeah, that’s scary.
Scott [00:50:58] Yeah. When you’re on the varsity team, you placed trackers, that’s what you do. So, you get quite good at selecting the times of when to do it or how to do it. Sometimes you get a little overzealous in your attempts to do it. Like during the middle of the day at a mall, because there’s a lot of people– logically speaking, okay, that may make sense. But covert hours to me are always the best, you get your butt up early, you get on some dark clothes, you notify the local agency that you’re doing it because you look like a criminal. For all intents and purposes, lots in play, and even just placing the tracker when you’re thinking about investigating somebody, or when you’re thinking about trying to stay safe while investigating that person, because once they know the trackers on there, seriously in jeopardy.
Dave [00:51:39] And just to be clear, you’ve got to have a warrant for that, too. You can’t just slap one on someone’s car.
Scott [00:51:44] Right, you can’t just go do that.
Scott [00:52:00] We got our wire up and running, I think March 16th, two months after our shootings. We targeted three guys who we were going to monitor, Criminal, a guy named Thumper, and Tito.
Yeardley [00:52:11] Who comes up with these names?
Scott [00:52:12] They do. A lot of times when you get to know these gentlemen and ladies, because there are some really, hyperfemale gangsters that are hardcore, so you get to know these people pretty well. So, you start to see their personalities, and how they truly do mirror what their monikers are. They either look like the person that they’re being talked to, they act in a manner that’s consistent with the characteristics of someone who has the name, Clumsy or Goofy, or Payaso. They’re typically funny people, goofy guys, you see that a lot, especially here in Players.
Phil [00:52:50] In the vehicle that was stopped, the white Tahoe, who’s in the car, and where were they sitting, and why were their names, their names?
Scott [00:52:57] So, Payaso was the driver of the car. He was the only one not on parole, and he was the one closest to the gun. If anyone’s going down for the gun, it’s going to be the non-parolee.
Phil [00:53:08] It was in the driver’s door.
Scott [00:53:10] The little console area that controls the windows and stuff. You can open that up and it’s hidden in the compartment there, and that’s how they found again. Chucky was in the backseat. I don’t know why they called Chucky Chucky. I’ve never asked him. He just certainly doesn’t look like little Chucky doll, but he is a crazy little dude.
Dan [00:53:25] His name isn’t Charles?
Scott [00:53:26] No. Then, Green Eyes was in the front passenger seat, and you could probably guess what color his eyes were.
Yeardley [00:53:34] Blue?
Dave [00:53:34] Brown eyes.
Scott [00:53:36] And then, Snoopy, Snoopy is all about 4’9” but he’s like this little guy who talk like this, and he acts like this [mimicking Snoopy] really fast-paced gangster voice. “Hey, hey, Chucky, eh? What are you talking about, eh? Remember when I put you on the hood, eh?” Really like a cartoon character.
Dave [00:53:56] So, is Payaso driving because he’s got a valid license?
Scott [00:54:00] Yes.
Dave [00:54:00] Those are actually very valuable. If you got a guy who can drive legitimately not breaking the law, and it’s pretty valuable on the street.
Scott [00:54:08] Payaso, I had developed, I don’t want to say friendship, but respect. A really mutual respect, where I didn’t think the guy lied to me. To tell you honest truth, when we went in to talk to these three people the first night, I thought we weren’t going to be able to get him to talk to us because he was actually somewhat responsible. You never really heard him doing any shootings or tagging. He was this bigger guy who could probably lay someone out with a punch, and he has just grown up in the hood, but he had a job. He had a kid, he was like 9:00 to 5:00 type guy, like going in, coming home. And so, it was interesting to see him there.
Yeardley [00:54:42] What does Payaso mean in Spanish?
Scott [00:54:44] Clown. He was funny.
Phil [00:54:46] People we just talked about that are in the vehicle, they’re all in custody.
Chris [00:54:50] Except for Payaso.
Phil [00:54:51] Payaso bailed out, the other two are in jail, so we’re going to get jail calls from them or prison calls. They can’t be wiretapped. They’re in custody. So, if you’re wondering why weren’t they the guys who chose to wiretap maybe explain a little further why you chose the guy he did and why you didn’t choose others.
Chris [00:55:04] So, yeah, we had the wiretap up on Criminal, Thumper, and Tito. Green Eyes and Chucky were in custody. Criminal, we learned that he was with Snoopy the day of the shooting and was possibly involved.
Scott [00:55:17] Remember, he was the guy that was on the FI card and the ticket?
Yeardley [00:55:20] Snoopy was?
Scott [00:55:21] Criminal and Snoopy and Tito.
Chris [00:55:24] And Tito was driving the dark-colored vehicle, which we thought was the getaway vehicle from that shooting at the track.
Scott [00:55:30] That’s the same car scene in the alleyway throwing the gun out.
Chris [00:55:32] We thought maybe one of these three were the shooter, which is why we were up on Tito and criminal.
Scott [00:55:37] Say something to Criminal and Tito, that would likely cause them to go bring up this case in the wire.
Yeardley [00:55:43] Is that what you guys call tickling the wire?
Scott [00:55:46] Yeah.
Dave [00:55:46] That’s exactly what that is. There’s a million different ways you could do it. Simply showing your face. If they see you surveilling them–
Yeardley [00:55:55] On purpose.
Dave [00:55:56] On purpose, you allow them to make you and that might prompt them to get on the phone and start talking. Or, you just go up to them, and they’re gassing up their car at a gas station and you walk up to them and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” That’s enough to tickle the wire.
Yeardley (chuckles) That’s amazing.
Scott [00:56:14] Strategically, we came up with a plan, we’re going to go stop these people, ask them certain questions and lay out a little bit of information that we have. I think we’ll call their other primates and say, “Hey, man, the cops just stopped me. This was going on, they’re asking about this,” and they’re going to start talking about this case. That was the reason why we chose those three, Thumper, because he had a lot of information, and when we talked to him, he kind of gave a little bit up. We’re like, “Well, he may be a good target.”
Phil [00:56:36] He was super active, putting in work, doing bad things every single day of the week.
Scott [00:56:41] And he was actually Little Thumper, and Big Thumper was a guy that got killed at that taco shop.
Yeardley [00:56:45] Were they related?
Scott [00:56:46] No, but Big Thumper brought Little Thumper into the hood, as a sponsor, whatever, which is why he’s called Little Thumper.
Chris [00:56:52] So, I think the first week, I think was about five days into our wire, we get a call, these guys are talking about going around and going to go shoot someone in rival territory. Sure enough, there was call for shots fired in the area, we’re thinking, these guys just did a shooting, ended up being that they were in rival territory, and then they got shot at by these rivals. We had patrol stop criminal in this car, nobody was hit. We did document this in a report.
Scott [00:57:18] They weren’t just shootings, they were fistfights. There was a call of a chop shop that was being operated by the Players. They had conversations about bringing the car over to Criminal’s house to where they were going to dismantle it and sell it, and surveillance was on it and watched it all go down. All those car parts made it into another car. Some of those guys left, they got stopped and arrested. You can see this wire’s actually fruitful. We’re proving that this is a gang and they’re involved in multiple different crimes, not just shooting people. One of the crimes was narcotics trafficking as well. Little Thumper was going to be engaged in selling just over an eight ball of crystal methamphetamine that was going from another guy we had identified in the case by the name of Cartoon. Thumper was using Cartoon to transport narcotics and all the stuff’s happening, and we’re finding out about it because of these wiretaps.
Phil [00:58:09] Which is super important, because maybe we’re going to convict them for the crimes that we’re learning about, but it also builds in that leverage.
Chris [00:58:16] So, obviously, when we had this wire going up, we had these plans of, “Hey, we’re going to go target these people and go interview them.” I think early on the day after that guy Criminal that shot at myself and Detective John went to go to Criminal’s house, he agreed to come in our station, and we started asking questions related to the shooting, why he got stopped in this neighboring city, basically trying to get information. We knew he wasn’t going to give as much, maybe lighters, but we were hoping that he wasn’t going to call his other friends. And Criminal’s actually pretty smart. He didn’t really say much. He would say, “Hey, don’t talk on the phone. We’ll meet and we’ll talk.” He’s already thinking, “Hey, the police are probably monitoring us. Don’t talk.”
Phil [00:58:50] He was the smartest person of the bunch.
Scott [00:58:51] For sure.
Chris [00:58:52] Early on, we got contacted by the gang unit from the county jail, myself and detective Scott about a guy who’s from the same gang who had some information, Creeper.
Scott [00:59:02] Creeper was in jail for leading a major agency in our area on a pretty lengthy, violent pursuit that ended in a fight and a canine dog bite and another fight.
Chris [00:59:14] Creeper was trying to get out of that and trying to provide information. At that point, he really didn’t have much information, but he’s going to be key because he made a phone call on our behalf. But about 10 days into this wire, Thumper receives a call from another guy named Lil Man from the same gang.
Yeardley [00:59:28] Little Man?
Chris [00:59:29] Lil Man, and he was a little tiny guy.
Scott Lil, Yeardley, L-I-L.
Yeardley [00:59:33] Got it.
Chris They’re talking about what’s going on in their hood in their gang territory, and what crimes are doing, and that call Thumper admits to conducting a shooting a couple of months previous, and there was another rival gangster that got shot and we ended up investigating that case, which was leveraged against Thumper later on down the road to agree to cooperate with us.
Dave [00:59:55] That’s enough for arrest warrant all day.
Chris [00:59:57] Yeah, but the thing is that we couldn’t go and arrest him, because then the wiretap would have to be discovered in court. And it’s important, too, because we got calls with these guys, “Hey, we have a Cadillac that we want to go strip and they were going to strip it at Criminal’s house, and sure enough, we were on surveillance and we were watching them strip this Cadillac. Take truckloads to this another body shop and we ended up arresting these people, but we released them the same night because we didn’t want to reveal our wiretap. These guys the next day they go, “Oh, man, these cops are stupid, they just let us go.” No, for different reason. At that point, we still didn’t know who shot.
Yeardley [01:00:29] Meaning, who shot at police at the railroad tracks?
Chris [01:00:32] We ended up doing the search warrant at Payaso’s house. I think we recovered like 12 guns after this case.
Scott [01:00:38] Every time we did a parole search or probation search or a search warrant, we’re coming away with a gun and ammo.
Dave [01:00:44] These are stolen guns?
Scott [01:00:45] Yeah, largely unregistered. Some of them were stolen. I think there’s a few that were stolen a long time ago from people in different cities that no longer claimed them or whatever. But there was some stolen ones. They’re some pretty nice guns. They weren’t just all like beater guns. There’s a few of them that you’re like, “Oh, yeah. They’ve probably had that for a while.”
Dan [01:00:59] And these all come from burglaries and breaking into cars and things like that. I mean, these guns change hands so quickly on the street. These are the other little fingers and tentacles of this gang’s operation where you’ve got these kids doing burglaries and going out and stealing guns from a house.
Chris [01:01:16] It’s funny you should mention that because Chucky was found in possession of one of our captain’s stolen guns.
Yeardley [01:01:22] (gasps)
Chris [01:01:22] He had his car broken into at a football game, and they stole a gun out of his car. Chucky ended up having this gun on him.
Scott Everything goes back to the Players.
Chris [01:01:32] Yeah, that was in a complete different city from us.
Scott [01:01:34] And it was months after the theft. It wasn’t like it was quick, that could have passed hands somewhere.
Chris [01:01:40] I went back to this county jail and contacted this creeper guy. I asked him if he can make a call on our behalf. He called Thumper. I gave him a script, basically wanted to talk about this rifle, how it came to the hood, how it came to the gang.
Yeardley [01:01:52] And this is the sawed-off shotgun rifle that was used at Chestnut Street and the railroad tracks?
Scott [01:01:58] Yes.
Yeardley [01:01:59] Okay.
Scott [01:02:00] And so, who brought that gun into the hood? Someone knows who brought that gun into the head.
Chris [01:02:04] Because we know Thumper likes to talk. Thumper, he’s like, “Hey, yes, Snoopy lost the gun the day of the shooting.” Almost implying that Snoopy was our shooter. That was a good call, because it steered us in the right direction of how we’re going to go in our investigation.
Yeardley [01:02:18] So, now you figure Snoopy is the one who threw it out of the dark car into the alley and called his friend and said, “Pick it up and take it into your house, I’ll come get it.”
Chris [01:02:25] Yeah, week or two after that is when Scott was saying that we needed some guidance on this case.
Scott [01:02:29] We have, as you can see quite a bit going on. We have now multiple gangsters that are involved in this Players gang, multiple crimes, multiple victims, multiple reasons to take these people to jail and to prosecute them. So, it came to a point where we said we got to go get some guidance on how to prosecute this, where to prosecute it, and maybe continue to investigate, along with the help of a prosecutor until we can find the shooter and put them away.
Yeardley [01:02:58] Unbelievable. Small Town Fam, this is the end of Part One of The Players. Please tune in tomorrow for Part Two.
Yeardley [01:03:15] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Sorin Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty, and Alec Cowan. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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