LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Multiple gang members are among the dozens of individuals arrested in a major law enforcement operation targeting violent criminals in central Arkansas.
Thursday’s early-morning takedown included a team of over 250 agents and highlights the coordinated work of federal, state, and local agencies to combat drug and gun crime in Little Rock, and is part of both new and continuing efforts by all law enforcement in the area to address the rise in violent crime.
U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland held a news conference Thursday afternoon sharing details about the operation and the collaborative initiative, Project Safe Neighborhood. Project Safe Neighborhoods is a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer.
It was announced at the news conference that 22 arrests were made this week and 14 arrests last week. Four are already in state custody, and nine suspects are still at large. Officials say gang members of the Little Rock Bloods and Crips were arrested.
Officials say suspects are from Little Rock, Bryant, Forrest City, Benton, Roland, Houston TX.
Ages of the suspects range from 21-55.
During the federal takedown, authorities seized 21 illegal guns, body armor, 9.6 pounds of cocaine, 7.2 ounces of crack cocaine, 4 ounces of methamphetamine, 12 ounces of marijuana, 293 ecstasy pills, 5 grams of herion, 93 pint bottles of promethazine cough syrup, $50,000 in drug money, four cars, and one motorcycle.
The Little Rock Police Chief said some of the suspects arrested during the takedown are children of gang members that became notorious in Little Rock during the 1990s.
During the press conference, Hiland introduced Joann Rhodes, who lost her son to violence. Last week she narrowly missed getting hit by gunfire while driving on 12th Street in Little Rock.
Hiland stated a location on 31st Street in Little Rock operating as a music studio was also used to distribute heroin, marijuana, cocaine and oxycodone. Gangs such as the Real Hustlers Incorporated (RHI) self-promoted themselves as an organization for rap artists.
The mass shooting at Power Ultra Lounge was precipitated by the rivalry between Real Hustlers Incorporated (RHI) and the Wolfe Street Crips, which is a local Crips-affiliated gang in Little Rock. Police identified carious RHI members as having participated in the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, and in subsequent retaliatory shootings involving Dewquan Johns, James Langford, Rodney Scott, Damien Young and Edmond Blue–all of whom are indicted as part of the operation, among several others.
“Violent street gangs including the Wolfe Street Crips and the Monrow Street Hustlers, have a long history of crime and violence in the Little Rock community,” FBI Little Rock Field Office Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch said. “We are determined to hold accountable these individuals who have paralyzed our community. We appreciate and applaud the efforts of this amazing team of law enforcement agencies.”
“These arrests should serve as a warning and send a clear message–we will relentlessly pursue these violent criminals and drug traffickers plaguing our communities and bring them to justice,” Special Agent in Charge Azzam said. “Our neighborhoods deserve to exist without fear and intimidation inflicted by violent drug gangs. These dangerous criminals arrested today were responsible for infesting our communities with more than drugs–they also threatened our citizens with guns violence. The DEA stands here today with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, confident that we have dismantled these violent drug trafficking organization and and made the streets in these communities a safer place to live.”
Governor Asa Hutchinson issued the following statement in response to the news conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office announcing numerous arrests and indictments, including multiple members of Little Rock’s two dominant gangs:
“In July, after the nightclub shooting in Little Rock, I convened federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in my conference room to announce the creation of an interagency task force, including federal partners. I am gratified today that 21 arrests have been made and multiple federal indictments have been announced by U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland. The success of this operation demonstrates what cooperation, intelligence information and courageous law enforcement work can do to make our streets safer. I commend the stellar work of all of those involved in this morning’s efforts, and I know this is just the beginning — there’s plenty of work left to do.”
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that her office is partnering with the U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland to tackle gun violence. Four attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office will serve as Special Assistant United States Attorneys in an effort to curb violence and increase prosecution of federal gun crimes.
“I am proud to join U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland in the important fight against violent crime,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The addition of Special Assistant United States Attorneys will help law enforcement curtail unnecessary violence and lock criminals up for the gun crimes they commit. No Arkansan should live in fear and I am confident that prosecuting and removing dangerous criminals from our streets will make our neighborhoods safer.”