In the spring of 2016, the leader of a Baltimore Crips subset sent out a text message saying that killing a Black Guerilla Family member was a prerequisite to being part of his gang, according to a federal indictment.
“To be a Tray,” he wrote, referring to the Eight Tray Gangsters, “u gotta bash a J,” referring to a code name for BGF members, prosecutors alleged. “That’s how we rocking now.”
He asked members on the text thread to send pictures of BGF members, and got back photos of Albert Pittman and Shyhiem Brown, prosecutors wrote. Within months, both men were gunned down in separate incidents, and Crips members shared newspaper links of the shootings, according to a federal indictment announced Wednesday.
“Just bashed the monkeys,” a co-conspirator wrote back after one of the killings, prosecutors alleged.
The text messages were revealed as part of a racketeering indictment filed against the reputed leader of the Baccwest Eight Tray Gangster Crips, 29-year-old Trayvon “Tru” Hall, and nine others. The charges trace years of violence and other crimes linked to the Southwest Baltimore-based Crips group from 2015 through late last year.
Hall’s attorney, Jose Molina, said Wednesday he would not comment on the charges.
The 55-page indictment documents alleged witness intimidation, recruitment efforts in correctional facilities and retaliatory street violence.
Though federal authorities wouldn’t discuss how the evidence was gathered, it’s clear from the indictment that the FBI accessed a trove of Hall’s text messages dating back years as he directed crimes and discussed others.
The indictment is the latest high-profile case brought by federal authorities and city police in recent weeks; another last month targeted a gang from the same area of Southwest Baltimore, Edmondson Village, that was allegedly engaged in murder-for-hire and witness intimidation. In another case, federal prosecutors brought charges in the 2015 murder of a woman and her 7-year-old son. The deluge is in part because grand juries did not meet during the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authorities said the cases are proof that they won’t stop going after those committing violence in the city.
“This is the second federal indictment filed in several weeks charging Baltimore gang members who terrorize their neighborhoods with drug dealing, gun violence and witness intimidation,” U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said. “We continue to root out the drivers of violent crime and deadly drug dealing and hold accountable those who bring them to our streets.”
Still, violence persists. There’s been more than a murder a day since the start of September, including a killing in broad daylight Tuesday afternoon at a corner store in Edmondson Village. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said he didn’t know whether the killing was linked to any of the recently charged crews.
“We continue to root out the drivers of violent crime and deadly drug dealing and hold accountable those who bring them to our streets.”— U.S. Attorney Robert Hur
Baltimore is often said to be made up of smaller, neighborhood gangs, though recent cases show better known gangs like the Bloods, Crips and Black Guerilla Family loom large in some neighborhoods.
Hall hails from southwestern Baltimore’s Allendale area, specifically near West Baltimore and North Hilton streets, an intersection that has historically experienced a high number of shootings and killings.
Hall’s indictment includes one conversation, from February 2019, in which he told another alleged member that six years earlier he had visited California to get approval to start an Eight Tray Gangsters subset in Baltimore. He said he also got permission to “create the Baltimore set” from a Crips leader in New York.
“The streets took notice that if u [expletive] wit them eight tray [expletives] they was goin [to] kill multiple ppl behind it,” Hall said in one message contained in the indictment.
Hall was already in federal custody: In August he had been sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison on a gun charge. That conviction was based on Hall’s posting pictures to social media of himself at a firing range, even though he has a felony conviction that prohibited him from possessing firearms. In the picture, Hall wore a shirt that said “On Mitch” that is made to look like it is dripping red blood. “#OnMitch I never miss the target," he wrote.
According to the indictment, “Mitch” refers to Maurice Finney, a member of Hall’s group who was killed in July 2017 as the Crips subset sought to take over drug dealing from another neighborhood crew at a Sunoco station at the intersection of Baltimore and Hilton streets. A Crips member killed Christopher Hockaday after he refused to back down, and Finney was killed days later in retaliation, the indictment says.
Hall vowed revenge: “I got you little cuz, you heard me? I’m gonna tear this bitch up for you, every chance I get," he wrote on Instagram, according to the indictment.
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Prosecutors allege that on July 6, 2018, Hall himself opened fire on members of Hockaday’s crew who were playing dice on Abington Avenue, killing Steven McKnight and wounding a second person. He used the same gun that had been used to kill another member of the Abington crew, Theron McClary, the previous summer, according to the indictment.
That’s just a fraction of the allegations against Hall and others contained in the indictment.
Cortez Weaver pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in February to Finney’s killing. Weaver was recorded by a confidential informant admitting to Finney’s killing and implicating a second person, prosecutors wrote in filings in that case.
City prosecutors secured a conviction in 2018 against a second man in that case, Dwayne Rico Torrence. He was sentenced to life in prison last year. Those Baltimore prosecutors were not present at Wednesday’s announcement at the Baltimore FBI headquarters and have not been included in other recent announcements.
The Eight Tray Gangster set was previously linked, in 2017, to the indictment of a Jessup correctional officer, Antoine Fordham, who the Attorney General’s Office said was a high-ranking member of the gang’s Northeast Baltimore operations. Prosecutors said he helped facilitate criminal activity inside the prison, and Fordham pleaded guilty last year, receiving 20 years in prison.
Last summer, federal prosecutors charged 20 people in connection with another Crips set operating out of Northwest Baltimore. In that case, federal prosecutors say the Yellow Bus Gang or YBS Crips subset was not warring with the BGF, but rather had formed an alliance.