Marion County Gang Unit Hits The Streets To Crack Down On Gang Activity
Now, law enforcement believes there might be a gang connection.
The Marion County Gang Unit made two arrests during a special sweep over the weekend, and hopefully obtained information that will help answer a critical question.
23-year-old Barry Nanton, who now sits in jail has admitted to detectives that he drove four other people from the scene of the shooting. The problem is those suspects aren't telling detectives, who the actual shooter was. But the gang unit, which is made up of officers from the Ocala Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Office are determined to find out one way or another.
Almost a dozen strong, the Gang Unit hit the streets of Marion Oaks sending a flashing message to gang members.
"If nothing else...we will say hello and introduce ourselves," said Marion County Gang Unit Sgt. Scott Patch.
But in some cases, an introduction simply wasn't necessary. The gang unit briefed at 6:30 Friday evening, and it wasn't long before they found themselves in contact with a 14-year-old boy.
"A simple phone call and we know immediately he's on probation," said Patch. "He's not where he's supposed to be."
But that was the least of the juvenile's problems, he was also caught with marijuana.
"This is somebody who is known to us, who is hanging out in known gang areas with known gang members," said Patch.
Julius Henry, a former youth counselor, has lived here 10 years, and has seen gang activity in Marion Oaks.
"Probably four years ago, the gang activity started with the bloods and the crips," said Henry.
Anthony says he left the gang lifestyle.
"I was constantly getting in trouble, going to jail," said Anthony. "So, I figured it was about that time to give it up."
And gang unit members hope their efforts will convince other gang members to do the same.
"Any time you're mixing gang members and guns, the potential for problems are there," said Patch. "It's gonna send a pretty strong message to gang members. If this kind of activity is going to take place, you're going to deal with the gang unit day in and day out."
The gang unit also arrested a man believed to be an illegal immigrant, who was caught hiding marijuana in his shoe. Five other bags of marijuana were found on the side of the road.
The gang unit started two years ago, and is paid for with a federal grant. Investigators say although they believe at least three of the suspects have gang ties, they don't believe last week's murder was premeditated.
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