For past several months, the unit investigated a group known as the Knox Street Posse in Springfield and found that they were reportedly engaged in a violent "street war" with rival gangs.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Authorities have dismantled a group the Hampden District Attorney's Office called "the most violent gang currently operating in Western Massachusetts."

Earlier this year, the D.A.'s office created the Strategic Action and Focused Enforcement (SAFE) unit, which is made up of local, state, and federal agencies and is meant to focus on those who are allegedly drivers of street level violent crime and violence in the area.

“Everyone in this region, everyone in this county, deserves a safe neighborhood, a quiet street, and a secure home to live and raise a family,” Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said. 

For past several months, the unit investigated a group known as the Knox Street Posse in Springfield and found that they were reportedly engaged in a violent "street war" with rival gangs.  

"The Knox Street Posse is known for its use of violence to protect their business of trafficking firearms, and the distribution of narcotics throughout Western New England, particularly the Hampden County and southern Vermont areas," said Jim Leydon, spokesperson for the Hampden D.A.'s office, in a statement.

Due to an increase in violence and the distribution of heroin and cocaine allegedly by the posse, the unit was able to gather intelligence and identify and arrest key members of the posse in an attempt to dismantle the group.

“What I see in front of me today is one of the most successful investigations that we’ve had throughout the country,” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Kwak. 

Kwak called this one of the most successful operations he’s ever seen.

In total, 15 members and associates of the Knox Street Posse were arrested.  Of those 15 people, 11 suspects are being held subject to the state's dangerousness statute, one is being held on $100,000 cash bail, and one dangerousness hearing has not yet been held.  In addition, investigators seized 20 guns, 100,000 bags of heroin, approximately 2.8 kilograms of cocaine, and $70,000 in cash.

Knox Street Posse arrests 062921

Photos provided by Hampden D.A.'s office

Hampden D.A. Anthony Gulluni added in a statement:

"There are a small number of individuals who are intent on violence, serious crime, and destruction. We realized that if law enforcement was able to focus on this small population of highly violent offenders, assaults, shootings, and murder would decrease. The Strategic Action & Focused Enforcement Unit (SAFE) is a full-time, permanent unit that works out of the Hampden District Attorney’s Office and includes federal, state, and local law enforcement. SAFE has a singular goal to promote safer streets, safer neighborhoods, and safer communities across Hampden County."

Those arrested and currently being held on the dangerousness statute include:

  • Joseph McLeod, age 23 - Charges include operating a motor vehicle with suspended license, possession with intent to distribute Class A substance (heroin), possession with intent to distribute a Class B substance (cocaine), possession with intent to distribute a Class D substance (marijuana), carrying a loaded firearm, possession of a firearm without FID card, possession of a large capacity firearm, and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony. 
  • Jeremy Garcia, age 22 - Charges include carrying a firearm (subsequent offense), carrying a loaded firearm, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, firearm violation with one prior violent/drug crime, possession of a large capacity firearm, trafficking in cocaine 36-100 grams, trafficking in heroin, and operating a motor vehicle with suspended license.
  • Austin Garcia, age 24 - Charges including carrying a firearm (subsequent offense), carrying a loaded firearm, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, firearm violation with one prior violent/drug crime, possession of a large capacity firearm, trafficking in cocaine 36-100 grams, and a Hampden Superior Court warrant for firearm violations.
  • Justin Garcia, age 30 - Charges include carrying a firearm without FID card, carrying a high capacity firearm while in commission of a felony, carrying a loaded firearm, trafficking in Class B substance (cocaine) over 200 grams, trafficking in Class A substance (heroin) 100-200 grams, possession of a firearm without FID card (six counts), possession of a high capacity feeding device (five counts), possession of ammunition, improper storage of a firearm(s) with children ages 3 and 7 present, and receiving stolen property under $1,200 (a Glock handgun)
  • Nathan Mercado, age 28 - Charges include carrying a firearm without a license (two counts), possession of a firearm without an FID card (two counts), receiving stolen property under $250, assault and battery on a police officer, and resisting arrest.
  • Dwight Clark, age 23 - Charges include carrying a firearm without a license (two counts), possession of a firearm without an FID card (two counts), receiving stolen property under $250 (two counts)
  • Omar Harris, age 38 - Charges include trafficking in a Class B substance (over 200 grams), assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon (motor vehicle - two counts), operating a motor vehicle suspended license, failure to stop for police, and operating to endanger.
  • Justin Crawford, age 24 - Charges include possession/carrying a firearm (three counts), possession of a large capacity weapon or feeding device (two counts), carrying a loaded firearm (three counts), possession of a large capacity firearm while in commission of a felony (two counts), possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, possession of ammunition without FID card (three counts), trafficking in cocaine over 200 grams, trafficking in cocaine 36-100 grams, trafficking in heroin 36-100, and receiving stolen property under $1,200 (a Glock handgun)
  • Kiernan Perkins, age 21 - Charges include possession/carrying a firearm (three counts), possession of a large capacity weapon or feeding device (two counts), carrying a loaded firearm (three counts), possession of a large capacity firearm while in commission of a felony (two counts), possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, possession of ammunition without FID card (three counts), trafficking in cocaine over 200 grams, trafficking in cocaine 36-100 grams, trafficking in heroin 36-100, and receiving stolen property under $1,200 (a Glock handgun)
  • Joshua Santiago, age 23 - Charges include carrying a firearm without an FID card, carrying a high capacity firearm while in commission of a felony, carrying a high capacity loaded firearm, possession of a high capacity feeding device (two counts), possession of a Class A substance with intent to distribute (heroin), possession of ammunition, and trafficking in a Class A substance (heroin) over 200 grams (two counts).

Tyre Shakespeare, 19, is currently being held on an outstanding warrant for a pre-trial violation.  He is also charged with home invasion, discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a building, larceny under $1,200, carrying a firearm without a license, home invasion, assault to murder, and malicious damage to a motor vehicle.

The D.A.'s office added that 35-year-old Jonathan Martinez is currently being held on dangerousness for a federal probation warrant and that additional charges are forthcoming based on his alleged involvement in two recent shootings.

In addition, 30-year-old Nathaniel Palmer was released $3,000 bail after prosecutors requested requested $10,000 bail on charges including possession of a firearm without an FID card, carrying a firearm with ammunition, and possession of a Class D substance.  He is expected back in court on August 24.

The state also requested that Luciano Bigelow, 22, be held on the dangerousness statute, but bail was set at $10,000 after that request was denied.  He is facing several drug and gun-related charges and his next scheduled court date is July 22. 

The D.A.'s office explained that 33-year-old Juan Romero is being held on $100,000 bail on gun and drug-related charges.

"By pairing up our jail-based intelligence with street intelligence from the task force members, we get better results. And when law enforcement agencies work together for the public good, we make our community a safer place, which is what it’s all about,” said Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi in a statement.

Western Mass News also reached out to Ryan Walsh, spokesperson for the Springfield Police Department, about why Springfield Police is not involved with the task force.  He said it was a manpower issue that prevented them from enlisting a full-time officer.  He added they helped in every step of the way with intelligence, arrests, and records and they hope to reach a point in the future where they can dedicate a full-time officer.

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(2) comments

JCC

great work by all law enforcement involved, now sit back and watch the judges let them all go with a stern warning to law enforcement, stop picking on people of color your all racists

DrJones2653

Here is a funny thought, are ANY police selling drugs, or controlling criminal syndicates? Last time I checked, cops sell drugs in EVERY major city - and small ones too - in America. Great reporting!!! Go Drug War.

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