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.
Yeardley [00:00:02] Hey, Small Town Fam, it’s Yeardley. This is Part 2 of The Players. There are a lot of moving pieces to this case. So, I’m going to refresh your memories as to where we left off in Part 1.
Police get called out to a shooting on Chestnut Street. As they approach, they end up pulling over a white SUV that’s obviously fleeing the scene. The cops and SUVs stop in a nearby neighborhood that’s about 100 yards from some railroad tracks. As police start to arrest the occupants of the white SUV, who are all members of the Players gang, someone starts shooting at them from the direction of the train tracks. No one is killed, but now they need to apprehend the shooter who is bold enough to fire multiple rounds at police has ratcheted up the urgency 50-fold.
Our guests for this two-part episode are Detective Scott and his colleague, Sergeant Chris. At the time this case was going on, both Scott and Chris were members of their police agencies task force called CIT, which stands for the Crime Impact Team. Their directive as a specialty gang unit investigating gang crime also involved hands-on community outreach. While Scott and Chris are on this CIT Task Force, their police department decides it’s time to bring the hammer down on the local Players gang. Because in addition to the shootings, the Players are wreaking havoc on the city with chop shops, drugs, and sex trafficking. The police set up a wiretap on key gang members’ phones, who have names like Thumper, Criminal, Snoopy, Payaso, and Creeper, in hopes that they can get the gang members talking and figure out who shot at police near the railroad tracks and how the shooter managed to get away, in an as-yet unidentified dark getaway car.
The Players gang begins to feel the squeeze like never before. Will someone break? This is Part 2 of The Players.[Small Town Dicks theme]
Yeardley [00:02:19] 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 [00:02:45] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:02:45] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town, USA.
Dan [00:02:49] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:02:56] 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 [00:03:11] 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 [00:03:27] Okay, Scott. So, you have the wiretap in place on several of the Players’ phones, and they’re gossiping to each other, but you’ve never dealt with a wiretap before, and you said in Part 1 that you all needed some guidance to get this case to the next step. I am assuming this is when DA Phil joins the case.
Scott [00:03:47] Yes. We were approached by Detective Adam who handled the assault of deadly weapon style cases. So, he was helping direct some of the evidence during the CIT case. He mentioned, “Hey, I think you should take this case to crimes against police officers’ section.” Their prosecutors are, quite frankly, not every day run-of-the-mill prosecutors. They can handle court very well. they’re like the cream of the crop. “I’ll get us a meeting where we can pitch this case, so that this special prosecutor could direct the rest of it and make sure we’re going to get some of these things filed in court.” Because we’re still young, we’re flying by the seat of our pants, we’re hungry, and we want to stop this. This gang is terrorizing the city, so we really had that mission.
We got all this stuff lined up for a sales pitch, in essence, and we went down as a group, from our lieutenant on down to the officers that were handling the case up to now, and we walk into DA Phil there and all his clan. I was nervous. These DAs aren’t handling prelims at the court, they’re taking on cases and doing multiple trials and their experience–
Chris [00:04:55] They’re handling murders of police officers, big-time cases and it was nerve racking. I’m still brand-new cop, and I’m giving this presentation and seeing all these cream of the crop type guys. After we gave the pitch, Phil was the one’s like, “Hey, I’m in. I want to take this case.”
Phil [00:05:08] Yeah, it was a big oval table, five DAs, including our head deputy of the unit. DA’s office is broken down into this main line and there’s a bunch of special units. This unit was called the Crimes Against Peace Officer Section, also known as CAPOS, our head deputy was there, and I was the acting assistant head deputy, and there was about four other people there. We’re used to handling cases in which officers are beaten badly shot, injured, or killed. We didn’t take cases like this necessarily, because it didn’t rise to our level because it wasn’t involving an injured officer. That said, the quantity of work that was done and the passion by the team, I kind of thought, “Fuck it, I’m all in. Let’s do this.” This kind of thing here was all consuming project and I had another 10 cases going in which officers were either murdered or were badly injured. We went all in on this case.
Yeardley [00:05:08] If this doesn’t rise to the usual criteria in terms of murder or injury, why were you inspired to take this one?
Phil [00:06:03] We had nine victim officers, we had our high-powered rifle used, we had a wiretap in play, we had a lot of big stuff going on, and if we didn’t catch this guy and make a point out of this, you can have a dead cop eventually.
Scott [00:06:15] From our side, I think we tried to make that known in our pitch. Our pitch was, “Hey, listen. We know you typically see shot police officers and stuff like that, but that’s what we’re here to prevent. This is the work we’ve done in the last three months. Help us finish it off.” We pitched it just like that. All the facts were there. We had pictures. We had Google Maps showing out of circles, the distance, the routes they took. Everything was pretty much like we were going to hand over a packet of discovery for a DA to look through and file charges. Then, we had the idea of continuing this investigation towards proving up Snoopy and finding the true origins or the true shooter in this case, which we thought was him. We weren’t discounting anyone else. For a moment, we really thought that Cartoon might have done the shooting, because one of the witnesses told us, as they saw the guy running over the tracks, he ran kind of like he had a limp. Cartoon had a prosthetic leg, and he walked with a limp. So, that was going through our minds. We weren’t discounting any of the other Players. But really based off of everything we had up to this point, we thought Snoops did it.
Yeardley [00:07:23] How old was Snoopy?
Scott [00:07:25] 22 or 23.
Yeardley [00:07:26] So, he’s young.
Scott [00:07:27] He’s young, but he’d been in a gang since he’s about 14 or 15. He’s considered that middle of the line, has more juice than most of these other kids we had seen. Thumper was the young up-and-comer, and Thumper probably would have been a leader in the gang, had we not started to investigate him for this case, because he was a gangster through and through. He was built like a little tank, and he knew it.
Phil [00:07:52] What happened, what do we do next?
Chris [00:07:53] The next, I think major operation was the Perkins operations up at another county facility where we actually plan this event, where we’re going to go on the pretext of doing the DNA sample of Snoopy. He was housed at this county facility. We had prior meetings with the staff over there, and we were like, “Okay, we’re going to plan this really good.” This is how we’re going to go get a DNA sample, which is just really bogus, because we couldn’t really prove DNA off of this rifle. It was more to–
Scott [00:08:18] Get them thinking we had DNA.
Chris [00:08:20] We were going to place two undercover deputies in the jail cell with him. One of them was this hardcore boxer. Dude has this huge scar on his face, tattoo of praying hands on his hand and you look at him and this guy’s not a cop. He was cop. The other guy looked like some big Mexican-looking dude.
Scott [00:08:37] Like a farmer guy, big burly.
Yeardley [00:08:39] Oh, okay, so this is the definition of a Perkins operation, where you plant an undercover officer or deputy in the jail cell with your suspect.
Phil [00:08:51] Yeah. A jail over here scenario is where you put three guys in a cell and listen, that’s not a Perkins operation. It requires putting an agent, a police agent, either an undercover officer, in this case, two deputy sheriffs, or a bad guy who’s turned into a good guy to work off a case or you’re paying him. In this situation, we do the Perkins operation up there in jail.
Chris [00:09:11] Awesome day.
Phil [00:09:12] It was an awesome day. One of our deputies is a friend of mine. He has this giant Mother Mary tattoo that went all the way down his whole body, and he was a fluent Spanish speaking.
Chris [00:09:21] Kickboxer.
Phil [00:09:21] And he had fought just before that day, he’s all beat up.
Yeardley [00:09:24] So, that gave him credibility.
Scott [00:09:26] So, this story is actually pretty cool because we get up there, we brief everybody, we get these guys dressed up looking like they’re inmates for the day. They have all their proper county insignia with the bracelets and stuff like that. But we made one oversight that really almost killed this thing from the get-go. All of us just kind of stayed at the central location. I can’t remember if it was an interview room or a dispatch center, but I remember us being in one central location to where it was just a waiting game. We let these guys go in, they’re in the booking cells with these people. They’re chatting it up, they’re talking to everybody. And then, after like an hour, it was planned that they’d be pulled out for some legit reason, give us a rundown of what’s being discussed, then they’d be sent back in with any other information.
[00:10:11] Right off the bat, they have to go to the intake. We have to put them in jail, and they put them in jail. Snoopy was there and a whole bunch of other people are in there. Well, what happens in these facilities, is they do a booking number check in order to protect themselves. They’ll ask people what they’re booked under and what their booking number is, because it’s sequential. They know who’s coming in or who’s new, or who’s been on the line for a while.
Yeardley [00:10:36] Are you saying that the inmates check each other’s booking numbers?
Scott [00:10:40] Yeah.
Dan [00:10:41] Yeah, they’ve got an idea of who’s in there. They’re a suspicious bunch. They’re very careful on who they talk to, you have to trust who you talk to in there. Of course, there are countless examples of people just running their mouths in there, and jail informants come forward. In this case, you’ve got an inmate who gives off a booking number. I don’t know what the offense was, but if he got booked in for something fairly minor, and he’s got a booking number from weeks ago, these inmates are going to pick up on that say, “Man, you should have been released from here by now.”
Yeardley [00:11:17] Are these booking numbers long? How do you keep track of a whole bunch of numbers?
Dan [00:11:22] I’m sure it’s something like how we number cases. It’s the year first and then it’s a hyphen, and then it’s whatever the case number is that year. If you got booked in year 2019, your booking number would start 19 dash whatever.
Yeardley [00:11:39] I see. Okay. Wow, that’s incredible. Okay.
Scott [00:11:42] So, they’re asking our undercovers their booking numbers, and they first go to this guy with the tattoos, and he screens off his booking number and lets him know he’s there, I think it was for fighting. I can’t remember what his backstory was, but his booking number checked clear. They go to the second guy, and they do a booking number check on this guy, and his booking number’s way off.
Yeardley [00:12:03] It’s not sequential.
Scott [00:12:04] No. And they called him out on it right away. It was Snoops who called him out. And he says, [in a Snoopy accent] “Hey, man, that booking number came through here already, eh? That booking number is not cool, you shouldn’t be in here.” Then he instantly called them out as a cop. You have all these inmates now, who knows something’s fishy, including our second informant who ends up being the one who steps up and says, “Hey, man, what’s your true story? Who are you?” And he kind of confronts him about it.
Yeardley [00:12:28] Cop is confronting cop now, to cover?
Scott [00:12:31] Right. Fast acting. He’s able to like number one, establish some dominance. Number two, let others know he’s down for the cause. Then, somewhat protect the second guy from the aggressors, and they got him out real quick.
Yeardley [00:12:45] Then, you only had one guy in the jail.
Scott [00:12:47] Right.
Phil [00:12:48] Both of our agents who are wearing body wires, and the room was wired up, but we’re not live-time listening.
Scott [00:12:53] Not live. We were on pins and needles for like 13 hours, waiting for this operation to start and finish.
Yeardley [00:13:01] Damn! What now? What happened?
Chris [00:13:05] What happened was Detective Manny went up there. We had an actual search warrant for DNA, and he swabbed Snoopy and said, “Hey, we’ve got some DNA, and we’re trying to prove it to you,” and basically starts up a conversation, so when Snoopy went back into this jail cell with our undercover, they would talk to him and they were talking about it, and he was stressing out about possibility getting sweat on this rifle or something.
Yeardley [00:13:28] Snoopy was?
Chris [00:13:29] Yeah. When this undercover says, “Well, do you think you got?” He’s like, “I don’t know.”
Phil [00:13:33] Well, I think he was smart enough to say a number of times, he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it, but he did talk about touching the rifle, which helped us because if he ever testified, I can impeach him with it. There’s a rule in our world where if you play part, you play all, generally speaking. So, you play part of an audio recording or video recording, you can’t just play the part that helps you. Here, when you use it, but it was still there for us to use it.
Yeardley [00:13:51] And you didn’t use it because Snoopy said multiple times that he had touched the gun, even though he didn’t actually fire it. So, now his statement doesn’t actually help you as much as you wanted it to?
Phil [00:14:03] Yeah.
Chris [00:14:04] After this operation at the county jail, we had a couple other important calls that came in through the wire. Thumper received these calls from other gang members saying that, “Yeah, the homies did this shooting.” We knew we were on the right track. I think it wasn’t till July where Thumper received a call from Cartoon, and Cartoon did a ride to go pick up some drugs in a different city. We did some surveillance. We saw some transactions, saw them come back to our city, we ended up getting a traffic stop on it, and they ended up finding about a quarter of a pound in Cartoon’s prosthetic leg.
Dave [00:14:38] Meth or heroin?
Phil [00:14:39] Meth, methamphetamine.
Chris [00:14:40] It was three people involved. It was Thumper, Cartoon, and Thumper’s girlfriend, Vicki, so we brought them back to the station. Obviously, they didn’t know that we knew what was going on. We were interviewing Thumper, me and Detective John and we pretty much told him, “Hey, man, we’ll let you out of jail here.” And he was going to be released because we have to sign him out, we don’t want to give up our wire, but he didn’t know that. We told him, “Hey, we want information on our shooting.” He’s like, “Me and my girl get out?” “Yeah.” He’s like, “Snoopy did it.”
Chris [00:15:07] Me and John keep our composure and we asked him some follow-up questions, and we come outside, and I remember me and John, we hug each other because it was like, we’re already seven months into this investigation and we’ve been putting so much manpower. We were just excited. We went to go tell lieutenant, lieutenant’s, “Okay, ask the clarifying questions.” “Okay, calm down here. Let’s gather our emotions.” We start interviewing, and he’s giving us more detail. We got it, we knew who it was.
Scott [00:15:47] As they’re doing this interview, we’re working phones. John’s there texting me, Thumper just said this. It spreads like wildfire and this team that there have had this interview that’s provided some pretty good information here.
Yeardley [00:16:00] It’s not even on the wire, though.
Scott [00:16:02] No, but it’s in an interview and it’s recorded.
Chris [00:16:04] Well, this interview came because of the wire because of this narcotics transaction.
Scott [00:16:08] Right. We’re like, “We’re getting this guy. This is starting to sound really good for us.”
Chris [00:16:13] I think that led into our first major move of search warrants where we had this whole plan, we were going to hit Criminal’s house, Thumper’s house, Vicki’s. I think we wired up ourselves that day.
Yeardley [00:16:27] Your what?
Chris [00:16:28] Our jail cells.
Scott [00:16:27] Our city has its own jail cell that houses quite a bit of people and it’s regulated just like the county jail, so we can hold people until their court date or even longer if needed, for whatever reason. We have the ability to run some of these operations with miking up jail cells and stuff like that. We strategically placed a recording device in the jail, and then we placed three of these suspects in jail cells so that they’d have to talk across each other so that we could hear them.
Yeardley [00:16:55] Smart.
Chris [00:16:56] And that day when we did these warrants, we were going to talk to Thumper because we had a huge long list of these crimes he was involved. Obviously, he admitted to that shooting that he did where he shot another rival gang member, not even connected to this. He had graffiti where he would get on the phone, “Hey, we’re going to go tag up the riverbed.” So, we had that, we let go tag and then right after they’re finished, me and Detective John went out the riverbed, took pictures, everything filed the crime report, 5000 square feet of graffiti damage. We had Thumper on the stolen vehicle where they dismantled it.
Yeardley [00:17:28] Oh, right, the Cadillac, that they sent to the chop shop.
Scott [00:17:32] Yeah, he punched some kid and broke his face.
Chris [00:17:34] They were at a party and he got in a fight, and he cold-cocked some kid and broke his jaw. We had a report on this and we have calls where he’s admitting to this. So, we had all these things against him. He was looking at some serious, serious time.
Phil [00:17:48] And that all came from the wire. The statement that Snoopy did it, was just an interview when he got arrested in the car with Cartoon.
Yeardley [00:17:53] When Thumper got arrested in the car with Cartoon.
Phil [00:17:56] Yeah, and then he got released. Then, we put together two major moves, major move one in August, major move, two in November. Major move one was in relation primarily to Thumper.
Chris [00:18:06] Cartoon, Criminal, and Vicki.
Phil [00:18:08] Right, and that was based upon about 10 different salient charges that came from the wire.
Chris [00:18:14] These were crimes that had nothing to do with our main shooting. These were all kind of extra people. Our goal was we’re going to leverage them so that they can agree to cooperate.
Phil [00:18:22] We interviewed all of them about two hours each.
Scott [00:18:24] Strategically, we bring him in, who’s the next one? Let’s go say something, bring them in, so their minds are playing tricks the whole time. We’re listening to them post interview. We’re gathering in as much intel as possible.
Chris [00:18:37] This interview with Thumper, we basically say, “Hey, man, we have you on all these crimes,” and we played him all these wire calls where he’s on the phone talking, and his eyes were just kind of like, “Oh, shit, I’m fucked on this.” I think we said, “Hey, we’re interested in you cooperating with us to go against Snoopy and any other gang members.” But he was still looking at a lot of time. I think the initial deal that you were possibly going to offer him was 25 years.
Phil [00:19:02] Yeah, Thumper actually pled, he pled to 25 years determinate. There’s indeterminate time and determinate time. Indeterminate time means there’s that “to life” at the end of the number. He agreed to cooperate in the case against Snoopy and the other three in the car for the attempted murder on the police officers for the shooting that occurred by the train tracks. He pled guilty 25 years determinate, just straight 25, which would be 25 years 85% time, which means you get only 15% credit, means he does about 22 years.
Chris [00:19:30] Thumper was young, he was 20-21, so he would have came out in his early 40s.
Phil [00:19:35] We charged him with nine separate charges that carried a lot of time. We had him on two separate shootings, if I’m not mistaken, and punching a guy in the face with a gang allegation, with the use of a firearm allegation causing great bodily injury, which carried 25 to life.
Chris [00:19:48] And the prior carjacking conviction which doubled his sentence.
Phil [00:19:51] If you have a prior serious or violent felony and carjacking’s included, it doubles your sentence. That’s what the wire gave us in terms of leverage. So, he cooperated with us. Ultimately down the road, he then refused to cooperate. I undid our leniency agreement, and we then tried him in a full jury trial and convicted him of everything on here, he got–
Chris [00:20:11] 56 to life.
Scott [00:20:12] Yeah, 56 to life.
Dave [00:20:14] Oops.
Chris [00:20:14] In a Miranda interview, he admitted to every single crime that he did, because that was part of the deal for cooperating with us, is you have to admit to everything that he did, and Thumper’s cooperation led us to our major move number two, because at that point, we already knew the puzzle, okay, this is what happened.
Scott [00:20:28] Pressure was starting to work.
Chris [00:20:30] What initially happened from what we got from Thumper was two carloads of gangsters. In that white SUV, we have Payaso driving, Green Eyes in the front, Chucky in the back with Snoopy in the car. In the second car, the dark-colored car, we have Tito and Criminal that are following each other. We found that they’re following each other because we also have cameras in our city that reads license plates, and they were within seconds of each other prior to the shooting. So, they went down to this first shooting, Snoopy gets off, shoots at some rival gang members, Snoopy gets into back into the white Tahoe, speeds off, southbound on this Chestnut Street. I don’t think the second car was with him at that point. It was still at Criminal’s house, which is on the train tracks directly off of Chestnut.
Scott [00:21:14] A few blocks west of where they ended up getting pulled over.
Chris [00:21:17] Snoopy jumps out of his car with the rifle and goes to Criminal’s house. Tahoe leaves, comes back down where they get stopped. Phone calls are made in that Tahoe saying, “Hey, we’re being stopped by cops,” they were calling people. So, then Snoopy gets in the car with Criminal and Tito–
Yeardley [00:21:33] In the dark car?
Chris [00:21:35] Yeah, he gets off of the car and shoots the officers because his intention was–
Scott [00:21:40] Get his guys to scatter.
Yeardley [00:21:41] Oh!
Chris [00:21:42] Our attention would be away from their crime partners and they can escape. Ultimately, that’s kind of what happened in this shooting case. Snoopy, Criminal, and Tito leave, they dump the gun. Thumper’s cooperation gave us major move number two, and we had Snoopy, Green Eyes, and Chucky who are up at state prisons. So, we had to write removal orders from them to be removed from state custody to our custody, and we planned another jail cell operation where we wire up all the jail cells and we’re going to interview these people.
Yeardley [00:22:13] And that’s major move number two?
Chris [00:22:15] Major move number two, where we sent out two-man teams to go to all the state prisons to pick up these people. So, they got back in custody, and we interviewed one by one.
Scott [00:22:24] Again, it was designed to bring them in, let them know this is never going to go away, because everyone by this time, they all know that we’re searching for the shooter. They all know. I think a lot of them started to realize this pressure is never going to go away unless we just give up the ghost on this guy. His bad. Over the long haul, he talked to some of these guys, and that was kind of their mindset.
Chris [00:22:46] Apart from those three, we also brought in Tito and Payaso because they were out of custody. We ended up serving search warrants of their house, arrested them, and brought them in our station, so we had five guys there. We interviewed Chucky, who was one of the hardcore guys who we think we’re going to pounce on, but we got word that on the way down from state prison, he was a different demeanor to him with the officers who brought him down.
Scott [00:23:11] Much more talkative, coherent–
Phil [00:23:13] And found what?
Chris [00:23:14] Religion. He found God. In our interview with Chucky, he agreed to cooperate with us, he agreed to testify against his gang members and gave up information.
Scott [00:23:24] This isn’t easy for those guys. You could see it in their face that they didn’t want to do it. They just understood the need to do it almost. We’ve known these guys forever, and they’ve known each other for longer. I had to listen to a lot of those recordings, the jail recordings we’re talking about. The vast majority of them multiple times, it’s very interesting, because these guys are close. All the stories people think about gang members about running trains on girlfriends and–
Yeardley [00:23:53] What? Running trains?
Scott [00:23:55] All this stuff is actually true. They actually do things–
Yeardley [00:23:55] I don’t know what that is.
Dan [00:24:00] Yeardley, you are innocent, and that’s one of the things I love about you.
Yeardley [00:24:04] (laughs)
Scott [00:24:05] Some of these girlfriends get jumped into the gang, and they’re not going to beat up a girl for minutes on end. They’re going to have sex with her until she’s appeased enough of the members to get put on as a member of the gang.
Yeardley [00:24:17] And that’s what the phrase running trains means?
Scott [00:24:19] Yeah. And it just so happened, one of these gang members we’re talking about, one of these main Players involved, he had a girlfriend who was jumped in or trained into this gang.
Chris [00:24:30] And her name was Playful.
Scott [00:24:32] Right. And Snoopy partook in that terrible event. Snoopy starts to talk to Chucky about how long they’ve known each other. It’s almost like he’s trying to coerce Chucky into not being a rat. So, he’s like, [with accent] “Hey, Chucky man, we go back a long time, man. You know, you’re my boy dog. I love you, dog.” Like I heard that probably 600 times. [with accent] “Remember, when we do with Playful, dog? Remember how we got her in the game, dog? I know you know that, dog.” He’s trying to remind Chucky of everything that kid’s done, that’s been terrible over the last 12 years to establish this bond. I can instantly tell Chucky did not want to be part of it. He’s like, “Yeah, man. It’s old, bro. Don’t need to talk about that. Don’t even– but, yeah, I remember, dog, we have known each other back for a while, dog.” He’s like, [with accent] “I love you, Chucky. I miss you, dog. I miss those times. At one point he says, “Hey, I love Green Eyes, too. That’s my boy, dog, but his kid, I think he’s mine. I think it’s my kid.”
Yeardley [00:25:25] Oh.
Scott [00:25:25] And then Chucky starts giggling and goes, “He does kind of look like you, bro.” And he goes, “It’s about that time when it happened, and I had to get locked up, but Playful is playful.” And like, “Dude, I can’t believe these people, man.” This is like their living a movie almost. It was terrible listening. I learned a lot of key insights into gangsters. Obviously, you can easily make the correlation that Snoopy was really trying to get these guys to shut up. And he was on the hook for it. He talked the same way with Green Eyes, obviously different content.
Phil [00:25:55] Who did he offer some to?
Scott [00:25:56] Oh, that was actually in the Perkins operation.
Chris [00:25:59] We got to retrace Snoopy’s history a little bit.
Scott [00:26:01] Right. Snoopy is an odd character, no big issue here, but he had been arrested once and he’s wearing women’s underwear. That kind of made out onto the street. “What’s up with your boy Snoops? What’s going on here?” And there had been some things in his past where he had offered certain pleasures in jail for people to help him out. What happened in the Perkins operation is he ended up offering RUC a favor for some cigarettes.
Phil [00:26:30] RUC is exceptionally handsome.
Yeardley [00:26:33] Ah, and offered a sexual favor for some cigarettes.
Scott [00:26:36] We had told RUC about Snoopy, so that he could kind of get to know Snoopy to try to draw him in, and he put three or four cigarettes in his pocket like he smuggled them in and we let him, he smoked on right there in the middle of county jail. He’s sitting there smoking a cigarette and Snoop sees this and approaches him. He says, “What room are you in upstairs? Let me get one of those.” In this debrief that you see comes by and goes, “Hey, man, you guys were dead accurate as to what this guy may or may not offer.” Those circumstances in one case, it’s just kind of crazy. You’re getting all this stuff feed back in, what I really learned is how to use that to get these people, in this case, to start talking about the case, about the facts. You can use that against them because it’s like some gangster code that they’ll live by. Like, nah, we’re going to be quiet, we’re going to back our boys, you’re not going to do this, this is going to be how you’re going to live your life. And if you step outside that code, gang units can use that as leverage against different gang members from the same gang. Like, “Do you know your boy does this?” Or, “Do you know your boy does that?” Or, “Your boy said this,” and they start to think like, “Are these guys ratting out me?”
Phil [00:27:43] One thing you can’t do, so it’s clear to everyone listening. You can’t tell a guy, “Hey, man, if you don’t confess to this murder, we’re going to expose you as being a guy that does X, Y, and Z.”
Yeardley [00:27:52] Sure.
Phil [00:28:07] So after major move number one, we charged all those people with all the crimes that we got from the wire. They all eventually pled guilty, I think, before even major move number two, is that correct?
Chris [00:28:16] Vicki, for her involvement, I think with the tagging and the picking up the drugs ended up pleading to three years’ probation. Cartoon, because the day that we got him in custody, we ended up finding two more guns and some more drugs with him.
Phil [00:28:29] He got seven years.
Chris [00:28:30] He got seven years, but then he I think committed a murder in prison. So, he’s still locked up. So, he was looking at some serious time. Going back to that major move two where Chucky basically agreed to cooperate and gave us the whole rundown of the night, and ended up cooperating and testifying, I think he testified our prelim, right?
Phil [00:28:48] Yeah, he at that interview, which was lengthy, I could talk the Bible all day long if I needed to.
Yeardley [00:28:53] Because Chucky found God, right?
Phil [00:28:55] Right. We went so deep into the concept of forgiveness and all this stuff. It was something, he was crying if I recall. He eventually gave the whole thing up, gave the entire thing up on tape. He cooperated and testified in the preliminary hearing against just Snoopy and Payaso.
Chris [00:29:12] Green Eyes also, but during prelim, we found out that he didn’t know what Snoopy was into, so he ended up being released from prelim.
Yeardley [00:29:19] Oh, Chucky got released from the preliminary hearing?
Chris [00:29:22] Yeah.
Phil [00:29:23] So, it’d be driver and shooter. Driver of car and shooter we went against ultimately. The other two passengers, we needed to prove that knowledge of the criminal intent of the shooter, couldn’t really do it. Green Eyes, we couldn’t prove that he knew much, so he did the case of prelim. We consented to that when we let him ride. Chucky was on our team. Down the road, we dismissed the case against him also, because we couldn’t prove he had pre-shooting knowledge.
Chris [00:29:46] He knew that Snoopy had the gun because he saw the gun.
Phil [00:29:49] Right. I don’t think he did anything to aid and abet in the shooting. So, he (unintelligible)the case, but he cooperated which was great, made him a snitch. He’s not going back to the hood. He’s no longer gangbanging anymore because he’s now no longer able to do all that. So, that solves a problem for us in its own, keeping the community safe way. Then, we went after Payaso, but he also gave it up.
Chris [00:30:07] Yeah. After prelim, after he was held to answer on the charges, Payaso, his attorney reached out to you and wanted to cooperate because he knew he was looking at some serious time over this.
Yeardley [00:30:18] Interesting. Did Payaso get any time?
Scott [00:30:21] Just under a year.
Phil [00:30:23] And then, he testified at the jury trial, also making him a snitch.
Yeardley [00:30:27] Isn’t that dangerous for him?
Phil [00:30:28] Very dangerous. Yeah, I say this with all kindness and love. It’s a great thing though, because he could not go back to the small city. He’s now so far away, no longer gangbanging, no longer hurting people, no longer doing things we all are concerned about. If he came back to the hood right now and somebody saw him that knows this history, because it’s been a minute, he’d be a dead man in a second, as would Chucky.
Yeardley [00:30:48] So, Chucky didn’t go to prison at all, but Payaso did. How did you keep him safe in prison after he’s agreed to cooperate with you?
Phil [00:30:54] He didn’t go to prison. He went to jail. He was kept in a protective custody unit, single-man cell. He can be verbally threatened and so forth and so on, but he wasn’t actually stabbed or killed or beaten or anything. He was a great witness. He was a great witness in the trial ultimately against Snoopy only.
Scott [00:31:08] We figured he would be the first one on board, but he wasn’t. He actually was pretty nice guy, like guy had a job.
Yeardley [00:31:15] This is Payaso you’re talking about?
Scott [00:31:16] Yes.
Chris [00:31:17] And he had something more to lose, he had a family.
Scott [00:31:19] Yeah.
Phil [00:31:20] After Chucky came on board, he testified at the preliminary hearing, was out of custody. Thumper bailed on his disposition. 25 years was taken away. We tried Thumper, he got 56 years of life.
Dan [00:31:31] Thumper recants his earlier statement because he didn’t want to be a snitch.
Phil [00:31:36] Didn’t want to be a snitch, but he didn’t recant say with what he said was not true. He said, “I’m not cooperating. I’m not testifying for you.” So, we could use the wiretap calls, all the other evidence and his confession, guy was convicted of everything. If your point is, you either go to prison forever, theoretically, than go for 22 years of actual time as a snitch.
Chris [00:31:54] He was young.
Phil [00:31:54] He’s was 18.
Dave [00:31:55] Hardcore.
Phil [00:31:56] A real hardcore. Thumper was a true killer. I think he’s more dangerous than Snoopy. Snoopy was trying to impress people.
Scott [00:32:01] Snoopy was a tweaker. He had issues, not coherent half the time, meaning not in his right mind. So, any little slightest thing would cause him to hurt somebody.
Yeardley [00:32:11] Right. So, how much time did Snoopy get?
Phil [00:32:13] So, 62 years plus eight months, and then to life, which means he’s parole eligible, but not guaranteed to get out.
Yeardley [00:32:19] Who killed somebody in prison?
Phil [00:32:21] Cartoon, the guy with the fake leg.
Yeardley [00:32:23] Oh.
Chris [00:32:24] Years later, I ended up stopping Cartoon’s son. I saw his name and I looked at him, “Hey, you look really familiar. Are you related to Cartoon?” “Yeah, that’s my dad.” I’m like, “Oh, wow.”
Yeardley [00:32:32] He’s in a gang now, too, that kid?
Chris [00:32:34] Yes. And he’s like 16 years old. He’s in the gang. Not from the same gang. But we ended up talking and he said that dad was scheduled to come out years ago, but did something in prison and pretty much gave up that he killed somebody in prison, so he’s still in there.
Dan [00:32:46] So, these guys click up when they get to the prison too.
Chris [00:32:48] I think they’re all in different prison zones.
Scott [00:32:50] Right. All those guys belong to a Southside 13 Gang. A gang that associates itself and aligns itself with the Mexican mafia, which is the 13. 13 for M. Most Hispanic gangs in the county or in southern region of the state are 13 aligned. Meaning that they pay taxes and loyal allegiance to the MA, which is a Mexican Mafia. So, these people going into jail already belong to a gang that’s a line to Southside 13. Naturally, when you’re in prison, and you want protection, and you want to show that you’re about this cause and you want to make some, I guess, bones for your hood out in the streets, you put in work, you show your value. And that’s obviously what Cartoon’s doing in committing crime in jail. He’s doing it for and on behalf of that 13. He’s getting patches on his jacket about how loyal he is.
Phil [00:33:45] On the streets, Hispanic gangs can be warring with Hispanic gangs, I’m guessing in this small city that occurs. But once you get to custody, they’re all on the same team. There’s no more beef between Hispanics and Hispanics unless somebody is perceived to be a snitch. But if they’re seen as a rat or a snitch or a cooperator, you’ve got to get greenlit from somebody above your paygrade to then murder that individual.
Scott [00:34:04] Right. You can take him out because of these reasons. Some of that beef on the streets boils in to the jail. It’s not exclusive. It’s not like right away it happens, but we know that sometimes Players at a certain level from the streets, will go into jail and then want to take over that same level of authority over others, but there’s someone in that place in the jail. Then, you have a little bit of infighting politics as to who’s going to run this. Most of the gang crime, you see when it’s gang on gang in a certain city, is due to that same politics. “Our gang needs to be higher on the level than your gang. We sell drugs better, we steal more cars, we do more graffiti, we put in more work and make more money for the Mexican Mafia controlling this area than you. That way, we’re going to hold the keys on how gang activity is done here.” Then, you have an opposing gang that says, “Nah, no, we do.” And then that’s when you start the fighting. “We’re going to show who’s who, we’re going to war and we’re going to win.”
Phil [00:35:01] And that usually happens outside this. Let’s say you have a gang like Florencia or Vineland Boys, they’re huge gangs on the outside. The Players in this smaller city here, 25-30 members versus 500, 1000 members. In a bigger city–
Scott [00:35:14] More established, dominant gangs.
Phil [00:35:16] The killing will occur outside. You can’t kill on the inside without greenlighting somebody. There’s all kinds of politics involved and it’s all racial in custody, the whites, blacks, Latinos, Hispanics, and Asians, they group up. On the streets, it’s not that way.
Yeardley [00:35:28] And you were saying, Scott, the reason that they fight is they’re fighting for status for the ultimate big mother gang down in Mexico, if it’s a Hispanic gang.
Scott [00:35:39] Right, and that’s pretty much in the jails. It’s not even in Mexico. They’re just Mexican Mafia in this prison system.
Chris [00:35:45] Nothing to do with Mexico.
Yeardley [00:35:47] Why are they fighting on the streets if you’re city then?
Scott [00:35:50] Money, control, power, respect status. There’s five, six major gangs in the city that have a 13. And then, there’s a bunch of little tagging crews of like 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds that go out and tag their block. In this particular time, you had two major little graffiti gangs, that gangs like the Players or Playboys, or Florence, or some of these other established gangs, would use as recruiting team. “Hey, you guys from this tagging crew, why don’t you guys come kick it with us? We’ll make you your own crew for our gang.” Now, in this city, you have four, five 13 gangs, they’re the Southside 13 gangs that want to recruit the same three tagging crews. Who’s going to win that recruitment battle? And how are they going to win it? Because if you want to have more members, you can sell more drugs, you can steal more cars, you can make more money. If you’re doing that, you’re going to be aligned with the heavy hitters in the Mexican Mafia. They’re going to give you the blessing because you’re good. You have the numbers, you have the wherewithal, your guys are down, you’re not getting caught, and you’re willing to pull the trigger. You know what Players? You guys are putting in massive amounts of work right now. They were making a play to run that city, as the gang that all the money flows through.
[00:37:04] They call them Keyholders, who has the keys, the authority to run this city for the Mexican Mafia, and that’s only placed on certain gangs.
Chris [00:37:13] And all that’s decided up at the state prisons where all these members of Mexican Mafia, there’s only a small, limited number of people, but they control 50,000 foot soldiers from different gangs.
Yeardley [00:37:24] Even from prison?
Chris [00:37:24] Even from prison, yes, because they can go out and order hits, like, “If you don’t cooperate with us, when you come into our job, we’re going to take care of business.”
Phil [00:37:31] The vast majority of numbers are all in custody, and they exert their power by killing people in custody, ordering killings in custody or ordering guns out of custody.
Yeardley [00:37:55] One of the questions that we always ask our guests is, how does a case like that or any of the cases that you’ve worked on in your time– Chris, we’ll start with you, how does it change you?
Chris [00:38:05] It made me a better investigator. In the whole court proceedings next to Phil, I was the main investigative officer, so I got to sit in on all the prelims and all the jury trials, because if you’re just a witness officer, you can sit in on testimony and hear what other people have to say. I was able to listen to everybody’s testimony, I was able to assist in picking jury trials. I never had done that and it just made me cross my T’s and dot my I’s a little better when it came down to other investigations, because I knew what it took to investigate all these crimes. It made me do a lot better job, so that I totally see a different aspect of it. Okay, as the prosecution side, this is what you need to prosecute a case. So, it just made me a better investigator.
Yeardley [00:38:45] Interesting. Scott, what about you?
Scott [00:38:48] Well, for me, there’s a few things. Obviously, you become this better investigator because it’s such fast paced. At this point of my career, I think what it did for me then is, one, follow the evidence, not your preconceived notion of what happened. Look for the evidence, look for those clues that are there. You just have to pound the ground to find them. Don’t be afraid to front load the investigation with all that hard work. I think a lot of times, people tend to put off the hard work and hopes that one piece of solid evidence is found as opposed to hammering a piece of rock until it cracks. I learned that was a big thing, is follow the evidence, pound it hard, go get it, like, it’s not going to come to you, none of this would ever happen if we weren’t out knocking doors and ruffling feathers.
[00:39:35] Two, talk, communicate. Don’t be afraid to take someone else’s ideas or mindset or perspective. Once those wires went live, and literally every day, there was something happening, you have to work together as a group. It can’t just be one singular, it has to be a unit and that’s what we created, I think. We created a really specialized Players unit that each went out and knew their task. We all siphoned that information up to Chris so that he can ride it. And that’s how these cases go. Teamwork.
And then, slowdown. I got to be the gang expert throughout the first portion of this case, like I said, and I just remember thinking I had so much to say and I wanted to say it so fast, that I think I said it too much or too quick and I didn’t allow it the space to kind of stew and I didn’t allow my thoughts to stew to where I could say it better. I learned that through the Players case, was like, “Hey, slow down, get a grip of all the facts. Think about what you’re going to say, don’t just react to a question.” And I’ve taken those three things with me so far throughout everything I’ve done.
Yeardley [00:40:38] That’s interesting. Phil, what about you, since this didn’t meet the usual criteria that you require for your unit to prosecute?
Phil [00:40:46] Yeah, I’ve lectured about this case a number of times, in the sense of how you use leverage to build a case. This is a good example of how it works in solving a mystery. Some cases, like I mentioned, aren’t mysteries. The mystery is what was in their state of mind, did they know they were shooting at a police officer or whatever the mental state required might be. This case had a whodunit issue with it. Leverage, I think is important, and it taught me that, normally, we don’t have wiretaps. I’ve only dealt with two trials in my whole career that had a wiretap component. That’s 100 and some jury trials and about maybe other 500 investigations I’ve been a part of. But jail phone calls and/or information you get from phone extractions, which are phone dumps of cell phones, it’s very hard with a new iPhone 12 with a six-digit authentication code, but we get in eventually with the help of the FBI and other technology, but you use what you can get to create this leverage, to take the weak link, and get them on your team. That’s one major thing.
[00:41:41] I’m no longer doing the cases involving murders of police officers. I went into management for about seven years and then back in trials now. My trials are all kinds of different trials. Some are like this, frankly, with some mystery components to it and getting the right person to testify for us, that leverage issue is critical. When you don’t have the DNA or the surveillance video, or the confession or the eyewitness, the big money shots, you don’t have those, how do you get there? We didn’t have an eyewitness. We didn’t have a confession not until Thumper eventually gave it up and then eventually Payaso, and eventually Chucky. If we didn’t have those three, this case is a whole different conversation. We can smash Thumper, wiretap he was done, but how do you get to Snoopy? That took the leverage. We got lucky with Chucky. We didn’t have the leverage, but we had Jesus on our side.
Scott [00:42:24] Another thing that just popped into my mind was, I mentioned it earlier is that cross-jurisdictional communication like talking to the other agencies. I mean, there’s agencies four, five cities away, six cities away that had information that we used in developing information for the case. Different cliques that Chris said different factions of the same gang in different cities, stuff like that, like we jumped into those areas and started hitting Players in their area too, just to see what would happen.
When you’re working together, and you’re communicating across those channels that are there for us to communicate, if it’s done, stuff like this can happen in these small cities, where you’re working big town cases, and you’re using every single investigative technique that’s out there to prove this case up. I really think that’s what the Players case taught me. Gangsters don’t just shoot people. They’re conducting strips of cars and selling narcotics, and they’re looking for people to beat up at night, and they’re doing this and that, and so many things all at one time. It’s like I don’t think we would have truly seen how vast that was.
Chris [00:43:26] You understood the gang life a little better. We had phone calls were Thumper quartered in some of these guys coming in from these other tagging crews and then, Thumper getting calls from their moms like, “Why did you beat up my son?” And this and that, they’re not realizing that their sons just got courted into this.
Yeardley [00:43:43] What does that mean?
Phil [00:43:44] Courted.
Scott [00:43:44] Courted in.
Yeardley [00:43:46] Oh, courted in.
Phil [00:43:47] There’s the actual penal code section that makes it illegal to court somebody into a gang and we convicted Thumper of that crime.
Yeardley [00:43:53] Right. It’s like an initiation.
Scott [00:43:55] Going back to that whole how do they court in females, there’s multiple ways. They can get beat up, or they can get made to have sex with these dudes to get courted in. Typically, that stuff you hear about, and some people probably don’t even believe it occurs, they probably just say, “Oh, that was on a TV show, and that doesn’t really happen that way.” But it really truly does.
Yeardley [00:44:12] Unbelievable. Gentlemen, before we wrap up here, you put these members of the Players gang in prison. How has this case affected the gangs in your city after that overall?
Chris [00:44:26] Players has pretty much been nonexistent. They tried to start up, but we hit them hard again. It wasn’t the same level as they were.
Scott [00:44:33] For years, you didn’t see tagging.
Yeardley [00:44:35] Really?
Phil [00:44:35] Completely gone, crushed them.
Yeardley [00:44:37] And has another gang come and fill that vacuum?
Chris [00:44:42] In the gang world in our city, you hit them hard and they go away for a bit, people start going into jail, and other gangs sees opportunities and they start coming up and then safety hammers them again, and it’s a wave. It’s a roller coaster.
Phil [00:44:53] Whack-a-mole.
Yeardley [00:44:55] It’salmost not worth it to them.
Scott [00:44:56] Well, a lot of times, it’s the criminal statutes that we have to work with, that causes the delay. If we could wrap these things up faster, if these trials happen a little quicker, if these prelims happen quicker, if we could get these things done faster, you’d have a better chance of stopping it.
Yeardley [00:45:12] It’s cumbersome.
Scott [00:45:13] Right.
Dave [00:45:14] The law enforcement view of this from DAs to officers, is we’re worried about public safety. We’re trying to prevent future crimes. A lot of people that commit crimes that constantly get released, go out and commit more crimes. Those are the people that we need to put them away.
Phil [00:45:34] 1% of the population commits 9% of the crime, and it’s largely gang members, and you take away the Players, and now the community in which you guys all work is so much safer. People aren’t being beaten and robbed and murdered, like they were before this.
Scott [00:45:47] It wasn’t a secret that that was happening. One day, I would like to go back and look at the crimes from the time that this Players case was being actively investigated in the streets, in the manner with which it was done, parole search, probation search, hardcore, full court press on the Players, I’d venture to say that the gang crime in the city came to a halt because they knew we were out looking.
Yeardley [00:46:06] And there were consequences.
Scott [00:46:08] Right.
Dave [00:46:09] Us guys in the job, people that are police officers, prosecutors, they recognize that when the police are out there turning over rocks and really digging into things, that it does have a direct impact on the amount of crime that’s happening in the community, that there’s a reason why CIT tends to be pulling over the same cars and knocking down doors at the same houses. There’s a reason for that, and it’s effective.
Yeardley [00:46:35] Right.
Dan [00:46:36] Yeah, and a lot of things can happen in investigation that takes that long, a lot of stumbles, a lot of getting stonewalled and to keep at it, I admire that. This job is frustrating at times but keep after it and have the bigger goal in mind of getting to the truth and what actually happened and get people arrested and convicted, it takes a lot effort.
Yeardley [00:46:58] Yeah, a lot of dominoes have to line up perfectly. Gentlemen, really, fantastic work, yeoman’s job, as they say, months and months and months. Plus, you got the badass wiretap that– if DA Phil has only ever dealt with two of them in hundreds of cases, that seems like a really big deal.
Phil [00:47:17] Very nice work, guys, do on this stuff. Hopefully this resonates out there and the creativity and the passion and the friendships that we developed. All the hard work will pay off and other investigations for other people.
Yeardley [00:47:26] Yeah, that’s amazing, too. I love that. Excellent job.
Chris [00:47:29] Thank you.
Scott [00:47:30] Once again, thank you very much. Goodbye, thanks for having me.
Yeardley [00:47:33] Thanks for coming.
Yeardley Well, Small Town Fam, that’s a wrap on Season 8. Thank you so much for joining us these past several months, for writing to us, for engaging us on Instagram and Twitter. You guys are the best. We’re just going to go on a little hiatus to ready Season 9 for you. But if you feel like you can’t live without us until September, join us on Patreon for $5 a month. There, we curate special content every week for your listening pleasure. It’s pretty great. It’s often funny. You also get ad-free episodes, it’s a thing. But whatever you decide, you guys are truly the best fans in the pod universe. You know that everybody wishes you were there, you know that’s true. All right, then, don’t be strangers, because we always have bonus goodies during our hiatuses both on Patreon and the main feed. So, stay close, you guys. We love you guys! Okay. All right, that’s it. Toodle and oo.
Yeardley [00:48:51] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith and coproduced 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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