Authorities took a giant step toward abating crime in the violence-steeped community of Cherry Hill in south Baltimore this week when they announced indictments against alleged members of competing gangs in the area.

A federal grand jury, in three separate indictments, charged 26 individuals on racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy and other drug-related charges based on their alleged narcotics trafficking and violence in Cherry Hill, court documents show. The indictments were unsealed Dec. 17 upon the arrest of 11 of those defendants; nine were already in custody on state charges.

“The defendants allegedly belong to rival drug gangs that have terrorized Cherry Hill, resulting in five murders as well as numerous shootings and robberies,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, who announced the indictments along with Special Agent in Charge Steven L. Gerido of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.

“For other criminals in Cherry Hill who were not arrested today, these indictments send a clear message to stop the violence or be prepared to spend the rest of your life in a federal prison far from home.”

According to charging documents, 15 defendants are members of the criminal enterprise “UDH,” which operates in the part of Cherry Hill known as “Up the Hill” or “Up da Hill,” an area northeast of West Patapsco Avenue and south of Arundel Elementary/Middle School that extends on the southeastern side approximately to Denham Circle and Bridgeview Road.

Those persons—Steven Jackson, 23; Eugene Anderson, 36; Asim Benns, 30; Ronald Hall, 37; Delano Johnson, 36; Tony Johnson, 29; Rashaud Kearney, 20; Russell Lumpkins, 26; Demond Pinkney, 28; Clarence Shipley, 26; Gregory Sykes-Bey, 20; Bryan Turner, 28; and Antione White, 25, and other unnamed defendants—were charged with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy and in a conspiracy to distribute heroin, powder and crack cocaine, and oxycodone as part of UDH. Members of the UDH also committed two bank robberies in 2011, according to the the indictment.

In the second indictment, Davon Martin, 25; Brian Parker, 35; Shaquan Robinson, 22; Richard Williams, 22; and two unnamed defendants, were charged with engaging in a separate racketeering conspiracy as members of the Little Spelman enterprise, which operates in the “Down the Hill,” section of Cherry Hill. That neighborhood lies northeast of West Patapsco Avenue, southwest of Cherry Hill Road, and northwest of Cherry Hill Park and extends on the northwestern side approximately to Denham Circle and Bridgeview Road. The alleged gang members were also charged with engaging in a conspiracy to distribute heroin, powder and crack cocaine and marijuana.

According to the indictments, UDH and Little Spelman are warring gangs, whose members protected their respective power, territory and profits through the use of violence, threats of violence, intimidation, robbery, narcotics trafficking and obstruction of justice. The indictments specifically allege that beginning in 2011, the gangs were involved in a dispute that resulted in three murders and the shootings of two others.

UDH was similarly engaged in a long-running conflict with an organization known as Coppin Court that is involved in criminal activity in the “Down the Hill” section of Cherry Hill, the indictment alleges.

In the third indictment, five other individuals–Danna Fraser, 25; Ernest Thomas, 25; Melvin Truesdale, 20 and two unnamed defendants—were charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and heroin.

All 26 defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO