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ATLANTA – To say the street gang’s name in Atlanta, a few things may come to mind. Killing sprees. Child molestation initiations. Diamond Kitties.
The Gangster Disciples, a nationwide gang is responsible for countless murders and robberies as well as extortion plots and drug trafficking throughout the United States, according to indictments of alleged members.
The latest conviction of three alleged members of the Gangster Disciples, included malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, violation of Georgia’s street gang terrorism and prevention act, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, for killing 23-year-old Anthony Tavarez in an Austell, Ga., apartment complex on Sept. 16, 2015.
“Out of greed, out of malice, and they chose this deadly encounter when things didn't go their way,” Jesse Evans, Cobb County’s chief assistant district attorney, said.
The major crimes prosecutor tried the case he calls “senseless.”
“Mr. Tavarez was a young man who didn't do anything wrong, didn't deserve what happened to him. He was a victim of opportunity, and they saw fit to shoot him in the back when he tried to flee from this violent encounter.”
They are facing life in prison.
And the Gangster Disciple’s activity is getting more frequent throughout the state and locally, he said.
“[They] have been one of the busiest and most active gangs in Georgia in recent memory. It's been a dramatic uptick in gang activity in Cobb, and we're not alone, it's all over the state of Georgia,” Evans confirmed.
Statistically, he said, the Gangster Disciples have numbers as a lethal weapon as well.
“They’re the largest gang we are facing in the streets and in the prisons.”
The problem, he argued, is that it’s hard to completely rid the metro Atlanta area of the entire gang because they are spread throughout the counties—each community with an independent chapter of its own, rather than a hierarchy structure for leadership. This poses a tremendous challenge when authorities are tasked with trying to take down the state's largest gang.
“There's really no one way to combat the gang problem we're facing right now,” admitted Evans. “It's a multi-tiered problem. They're an extremely violent gang, and we are making every effort we can to dismantle them to the best of our ability, but they're very entrenched in the community.”
The gang was formed in Chicago in the late 1960s when the “Black Disciples” and “Supreme Gangsters” aligned forces. It quickly spread to Georgia, where the FBI has tracked the group for decades.
Law enforcement has described them as a violent and huge criminal organization who recruits police officers to help do their dirty work. According to one of the many indictments filed, the group currently has members in 24 states.
A huge takedown of the Gangster Disciples made headlines during the summer of 2016, after a violent crime spree ripped through Atlanta. At that time, DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James called their crimes in Atlanta a “reign of terror” and said the gang was a serious threat to the city.
“They are violent; they are terrifying. They are organized and determined. But, we are more organized and more determined,” James vowed.
More than 50 alleged members were taken down in a sting operation soon after; charges ranged from murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion and arson as well as drug trafficking and financial fraud.
Earlier this year, prosecutors detailed the timeline of a 2015 two-day killing spree. Prosecutors alleged that the two were members of the “Hate Committee,” a local subsidiary of the Gangster Disciples.
According to authorities, Pena and Broxton followed orders by gang leaders to seek out "violators"— people who allegedly didn't follow gang rules or pretended to be Gangster Disciple members—and commit other crimes in the Central Drive area of Stone Mountain.
According to the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office, a jury returned guilty verdicts against Joseph Broxton, 22, and Daniel Pena, 24, on multiple charges, including murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and violation of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.