Chattanooga police arrest 3 to stop gang retaliation

Chattanooga police arrest 3 to stop gang retaliation

January 26th, 2014 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

HOW TO HELP

Have information about the recent shootings?

Call Chattanooga police at 698-2525 or Crime Stoppers at 698-3333.

An eerie peace has settled on East 50th Street where gunshots thundered a week ago and took the life of an eighth-grader.

Now is the time when plans are being made.

"It's quiet. Give it a little bit of time. They are in the bushes. They're stalking people," said a neighborhood man who declined to give his name out of fear of retaliation. "It's like war out here."

A week ago, 13-year-old Deontrey Southers was gunned down at his doorway. Police said men with the 126 Athens Park Bloods came to the door. They asked for his mother's boyfriend, 31-year-old Bobby Johnson -- who residents say is a Bounty Hunter Blood.

One of the men shot Deontrey in the torso. The boy yelled for his mother. When Shanerra Southers reached her son, he was on the floor. She opened the front door to see if someone was still outside, and told investigators "that's when the glass exploded" as gunmen opened fire again, according to the medical examiner's report.

Deontrey died on the way to the hospital.

His death was part of a war between the 126 Athens Park Bloods and the Bounty Hunter Bloods. The violence initially started over a woman, according to neighborhood residents and police.

Just hours before Deontrey was shot, a couple was shot in their living room on Central Avenue. Neither's injury was life-threatening.

On Wednesday, there were reports that Athens Park Blood member Lacharlston Haggard was shot in the thigh off Rossville Boulevard. He initially told police a man with dreads had shot him. Police later recovered the gun and found Haggard had accidentally shot himself. On Friday, he was arrested for filing a false report.

Police have not linked the incidents to the gang strife.

But in an effort to stymie retaliation, Chattanooga police last week picked up Deontrey's uncle, Rodney "Rah-Rah" Southers, a Rollin 20s Blood, on an open warrant for domestic assault.

When they took him into custody, he gave them ammunition for a bigger case. Southers, a convicted felon, had bullets in his pocket. He's in the hands of federal authorities now, potentially facing decades of time without parole.

"Free RahRah. Man these people so low down -- feeling worse," one relative wrote on Facebook after the arrest.

Police also picked up Athens Park Bloods members Ladarrel Bradley and Floyd Davis to try and offset further violence. Bradley was picked up on drug charges, and Davis was picked up for violating his probation. No arrest has been made in Deontrey's death.

Police are also looking for Johnson. They want to talk to him. But with the most recent arrests, he's gone underground.

"You won't find him. There's no telling where he's at," said the neighbor on East 50th Street.

The sooner police arrest Deontrey's killer or killers, the sooner the tensions will be eased in the streets, the man said.

"If somebody don't get caught, there's going to be a lot of hell to raise," he said.

Police have tried to send a message -- participate in shootings and you'll do federal time.

One officer said, "We're going to get anybody and everybody involved in this."

Mayor Andy Berke's Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative is just months from launching. When it gets going, offenders will be shown the evidence against them and offered a chance to change their lives, whether it's getting a college degree or going to drug rehab. The alternative is spending a long time in a federal prison.

The neighbor pointed out that arrests alone won't help. He believes Southers and others will call the shots from the penitentiary.

"It ain't safe to go nowhere," he said.

They listen. They watch.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.