Linked shootings prompted formation of gang task force

Friday, July 29, 2011 | 7:13 p.m. CDT

 COLUMBIA — The task force that arrested 11 people in Columbia this week was created after police suspected some recent shooting incidents in the city might be connected.

“There was some information that some of the shootings might have been in retaliation to other shootings,” Lt. Ken Gregory said.

Gregory is the commander of the Columbia Police Department’s investigative bureau. He said he presented the idea of creating a gang task force to Deputy Chief Steve Monticelli on Friday, July 22. The task force began work Monday. It comprises representatives of the Columbia Police Department, Boone County Sheriff's Department, FBI and Boone County Juvenile Office, police spokeswoman Latisha Stroer said.

“We just contacted the agencies in the area that we usually work with on different projects,” Gregory said.

A 2007 effort to combat gang activity in Columbia resulted in 16 indictments of people Columbia police said were members of the "Cut Throat" gang. The suspects were indicted in 2009 with the help of FBI agents.

Gregory said local FBI agents assisted on this week's case because if investigators' current suspicions about gang involvement turn out to be true, the agents might assist with federal indictments again.

"That expertise is invaluable to us," he said.

Columbia police officers have worked with FBI agents on drug task forces in the past, and have a good working relationship, Gregory said. Bank robberies are also joint investigations between local law enforcement and the FBI because most banks are federally insured.

In addition to the 11 arrests, the Task Force has recovered five guns, two of which were reported stolen, along with marijuana, MDMA, PCP and crack cocaine since Monday.

However, not all of the people arrested in the recent sweep are definitely linked to gangs, police said. 

"When you have a certain effort, sometimes you end up catching some people who might not be intended suspects," Gregory said.

Stroer said the task force will continue to look into suspected gang activity. 

She shared details Friday of the recent shootings that were among the criminal activities that prompted the task force's formation:

  • On June 25, shots were fired at a large party of 100 to 300 people at Foyer Court. One man was hit by a bullet in his ear lobe. Three women, sitting inside a car, were injured by pieces of glass after a bullet went through the car’s windshield.
  • On July 9, police received a complaint of shots fired at Sylvan Lane. One man was hit by a bullet in the hip area and was rushed to surgery at University Hospital.
  • A man was shot in the right hand and right shoulder on July 22 in a shooting on Northampton Drive. The man was taken to University Hospital.

Nine of the 11 people arrested on suspicion of gang-related activities were from Columbia. One was from Kansas City, and another was from Boonville.

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