|ATLANTIC CITY – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa today announced that 28 people were charged in a major takedown of members of the violent “800 Blok” street gang who were dealing heroin and cocaine in the Back Maryland Avenue section of Atlantic City. Approximately 75 officers assigned to the Atlantic City Violent Crime Task Force fanned out today in tactical teams to arrest 18 targets in early morning raids. Six men were previously arrested, and the remaining four targets are being sought on warrants.
Attorney General Chiesa made the announcement in Atlantic City with Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice, Captains Brendan McIntyre and Thomas Goletz of the New Jersey State Police, Atlantic County Prosecutor James P. McClain, Atlantic City Police Chief Ernest Jubilee, Atlantic County Sheriff Frank X. Balles and State Parole Board Chairman James T. Plousis.
The charges are the result of “Operation Blok Buster,” an eight-month investigation by the Atlantic City Violent Crime Task Force targeting the “800 Blok” street gang. The gang, which is based in the area surrounding the 800 block of North Maryland Avenue, relies on gun violence and threats of violence to control its drug trafficking turf and to settle scores with other gangs. Most gang-related shootings and homicides in Atlantic City are attributed to the 800 Blok gang and the rival “Dirty Blok” gang based in the Stanley Homes Village. While these gangs are based in defined sections of Atlantic City, their violence spills over through much of the city.
As a result of the investigation, the task force foiled an alleged plot by one 800 Blok member to murder another man. They arrested Shawn Pettis, 28, as he allegedly acquired a gun to carry out the murder. Pettis, an alleged high-ranking member of 800 Blok who was dealing large volumes of cocaine and heroin, is charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree weapons offenses, and second-degree distribution of cocaine and heroin. The investigation also led to the arrest of Razzaq Shannon, 21, who is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting Christon Hargrove, 21, in the head in the 800 block of North Virginia Avenue on July 8, 2012.
“They call themselves the 800 Blok gang, but they don’t confine their drug dealing and violence to one block or even one section of Atlantic City,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “Instead, they are the driving force behind a majority of the gang-related shootings and homicides plaguing the city, along with the rival Dirty Blok gang. We formed the Violent Crime Task Force for operations like this one, which protect the people of Atlantic City by taking violent gang members off the street.”
“Through the Atlantic City Violent Crime Task Force, we are joining forces to carry out long-term, strategic investigations such as Operation Blok Buster, which have a real impact on public safety in Atlantic City,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “In the 20 months since it was formed, the task force has made more than 400 arrests and seized over 50 guns, as well as large quantities of narcotics. We will continue to target violent criminal syndicates and individual offenders who threaten the people of Atlantic City.”
“This violent group of criminals terrorized the citizens of Atlantic City with their open air drug dealing activities and numerous acts of violence. High-ranking members of this gang would not hesitate to murder anyone who stood in their way,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “A coordinated effort such as Operation Blok Buster sends a clear message throughout the state that all levels of law enforcement will work together to dismantle these criminal organizations and make New Jersey safer for our citizens.”
“This is the next step in the fight against drug gangs in the city of Atlantic City,” stated Atlantic County Acting Prosecutor Jim McClain. “It is also another example of how cooperative law enforcement can effect positive change. Our office will continue to work with other law enforcement agencies on the local, state and federal levels to follow-up on the success and to continue to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Atlantic City.”
“This is yet another example of law enforcement collaboration at its best,” said Chief Ernest Jubilee of the Atlantic City Police Department. “The great work that the Atlantic City Violent Crime Task Force has done in this investigation shows that entities working together toward a common goal produce favorable results.”
“Making us feel safe in Atlantic County is my first priority,” Sheriff Frank X. Balles said. “Atlantic County's future is best served when we have safe neighborhoods where our citizens can live, work, and play without fear of destructive, violent criminal activity. The Sheriff’s Office will continue these crucial law enforcement partnerships that seek to bring down violent gangs and improve our county’s neighborhoods.”
“This is an example of seamless law enforcement efforts and how the entire criminal justice system is engaged in making Atlantic City safer,” said Chairman James T. Plousis of the New Jersey State Parole Board.
Operation Blok Buster was conducted by the Atlantic City Violent Crime Task Force, comprised of law enforcement officers from the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the New Jersey State Police Street Gangs South Unit, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Atlantic City Police Department, the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Parole Board.
Deputy Attorney General James Ruberton of the Division of Criminal Justice and Assistant Prosecutor Erik Bergman of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office are the prosecutors assigned to the investigation. Detective Brian Graybill of the Division of Criminal Justice and Detective Henry White of the Atlantic City Police Department are the lead detectives.
The investigation commenced with undercover police officers making cocaine purchases in the “800 Blok” area. Additional means of investigation were used to further penetrate the area, including various types of surveillance. Over the course of the investigation, the Atlantic City Violent Crime Task Force was able to make purchases of narcotics deep within the confines of an area that is very protected and difficult to infiltrate.
Shawn Pettis was arrested on Feb. 6, 2013, after the Violent Crime Task Force uncovered an alleged plot by Pettis to murder a man at a hotel in Atlantic County. Before his arrest, Pettis allegedly purchased a stolen .380-caliber handgun that he intended to use to commit the murder. Acting on information from the task force, officers of the Absecon Police Department stopped the car in which Pettis was a passenger and allegedly found the loaded gun in his waistband.
Pettis is one of four men identified in the operation as alleged high-volume distributors of cocaine within the 800 Blok gang. These other alleged high-volume dealers were each charged with first-degree distribution of cocaine:
The first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $200,000.
The other defendants face second- or third-degree charges of drug distribution, with the exception of Kareem Rex, 18, who is charged with fourth-degree obstruction of justice, and Razzaq Shannon, who is charged with first-degree murder, as previously indicated. First-degree murder carries a sentence of life in prison including 30 years of parole ineligibility. The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while the third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $35,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The charges will be presented to a grand jury for potential indictment.
During the operation, authorities seized three handguns and a shotgun, as well as significant quantities of heroin and cocaine. Razzaq Shannon is being held in the Atlantic County Jail on $1 million cash bail, and Shawn Pettis on $750,000 cash bail. The other defendants have bails set at $330,000 or less.
The following is a list of the individuals charged in Operation Blok Buster. Unless otherwise noted, all are residents of Atlantic City. (All had been arrested by 9 a.m., with the exception of Leon Henry, Eric Teasley, Javar Bing and Keith Jackson, who were being sought on warrants.)
- Shawn Pettis, 28, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Weapons Offenses, Distribution of Cocaine/Heroin, Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine/Heroin
- Robert Creek, 33, Distribution of Heroin
- Asmar Coley, 34, Distribution of Cocaine
- Vanuel Gray, 35, Distribution of Heroin
- Shahied Page, 36, of Pleasantville, Distribution of Heroin
- Isiah Pettis, 21, Distribution of Cocaine/ Heroin, Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine/Heroin
- Rashad Stephens, 22, Distribution of Heroin
- Shawn Williams, 30, Distribution of Cocaine
- Aarod Moore, 21, Distribution of Cocaine
- Derrick Deans, 53, Distribution of Prescription Pain Pills/Conspiracy to Distribute Pain Pills
- Leon Henry, 25, Distribution of Heroin, Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin
- Samuel Dunmore, 27, Distribution of Cocaine
- Keith Cundiff, 28, Distribution of Heroin
- Eric Teasley, 21, Distribution of Heroin
- Lawrence Rooks, 25, Distribution of Cocaine
- Derick Johnson, 45, Distribution of Heroin
- Robert Davis, 44, Distribution of Heroin
- Julius Bing, 33, Distribution of Heroin
- Javar Bing, 31, Distribution of Heroin
- Keith Jackson, 36, Distribution of Heroin
- “Marcus” [Full Name Unknown], Distribution of Cocaine
- “K” [Full Name Unknown], Distribution of Cocaine
- Razzaq Shannon, 21, Murder
- Rasan McGee, 22, Distribution of Heroin
- Mark Robinson, 18, Distribution of Heroin
- Dominec Robinson, 23, Distribution of Heroin
- Marshall Coley, 24, Distribution of Heroin
- Kareem Rex, 18, Obstruction of Justice