SWAT teams net drugs, guns in ‘Block Boyz’ crackdown

State, parish and city SWAT teams raided six homes simultaneously just before sunrise Friday morning in a crackdown on the well-known “Big Money Block Boyz” gang that led to seven arrests and the seizure of numerous drugs and guns.

Months of investigations, still ongoing, led to the narcotics crackdown targeting people affiliated with the Block Boyz, whose members, like many other Baton Rouge-area gangs, were offered counseling and other free resources during a Baton Rouge Violence Elimination Project “call in” last April.

Those who refused the services had been warned that at the first sign of trouble authorities would be ready to use any means necessary to arrest known gang members and their associates.

“This morning was law enforcement holding up our end of the bargain,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said at a Friday afternoon press conference.

The calculated raids took place at 5:30 a.m. Friday. East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s SWAT members raided a Jade Avenue residence near Gardere that netted three arrests, which included the capture of Timothy Prater, 18, the only known Block Boyz member of the people arrested.

“We believe the people who were arrested were, if not directly involved, somehow associated with the Block Boyz,” said Cpl. Don Coppola Jr., a Baton Rouge police spokesman.

Prater, along with at least four of the other associates of the gang, were booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on numerous drug and gun counts. A sixth person was issued a misdemeanor summons on a count of possession of marijuana, said Casey Rayborn Hicks, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

It was unclear Friday whether the seventh person, who also was accused of possessing marijuana, was issued a summons or booked into the Parish Prison.

Authorities, including Baton Rouge police and State Police, also raided Gardere-area homes in the 8600 block of Rush Avenue and the 2000 block of General Lee Avenue, which each netted one arrest. Another raid in the 1800 block of Southpointe Drive, just west of Staring Lane, also resulted in one arrest, Hicks said.

“These were not idle threats made at the call in,” East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said at the press conference. “We mean business.”

West Baton Rouge and Iberville parish sheriff’s deputies, along with other agencies involved, also raided two other residences, one in each parish. Neither of those raids resulted in an immediate arrest, Hicks said.

Friday wasn’t the first time an investigation headed by BRAVE, a multi-agency group tasked with reducing youth violence in the 70805 and 70802 ZIP codes, has targeted the “Big Money Block Boyz.”

In July, authorities arrested nine Block Boyz members and associates during another crackdown.

Those arrested in July included Trevor Georgetown, 19, who has since been indicted on counts of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in the June 5 killing of 18-year-old Franklin “Franco” Ely Lara-Solis.

Friday morning’s raids turned up about eight pounds of marijuana, 11 ounces of cocaine and $1,600 in cash. Other items seized included a bullet proof vest, more than 100 rounds of ammunition and 13 guns, including two weapons that had been stolen, Hicks said.

The guns rounded up included several rifles and revolvers, a shotgun and one pistol-grip rifle with a 50-round magazine.

Louisiana State Police crime lab analysts will process the weapons to determine if any of the guns are linked to other investigations, said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman.

Sheriff Gautreaux and Col. Mike Edmonson, State Police’s commander, said they prayed prior to Friday’s raids that no one would get hurt when executing the search warrants.

Officials lauded the work of investigators who have worked months leading up to Friday’s arrests, and at least one credited BRAVE with reducing youth violence in the parish since its inception in the fall of 2012. Many officials have previously credited BRAVE with reducing the parish’s homicide rate by about 20 percent from 2012 to 2013.

BRAVE’s director, Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Herbert “Tweety” Anny, said the program is ultimately about offering resources and services to young people that will steer them away from violent behavior.

“We don’t want to lock everyone up,” Anny said.

The Block Boyz represent one of several dozen active Baton Rouge street gangs, but are described by local officials as “groups” because they are said to lack the sophistication of true gangs.

The Black Boyz group, which numbers about 20 members, is the first one to ignore the stern warnings touted during two call ins, one in April and a second in November.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who has played an instrumental role in the BRAVE program, said Friday crediting only BRAVE with lowering the parish’s homicide rate between 2012 and 2013 would be hard to confirm, adding other issues could have factored in to the drop.

“It’s hard for us to say BRAVE is the only reason this has happened,” Moore said. He added, “We like what we see for now.”

Hicks said the following people were booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison as a result of Friday’s raids:

Timothy Prater, 18, 1849 Jade Ave., possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, illegal carrying of a firearm with a controlled dangerous substance and possession of a stolen firearm.

Marcus Carter, 27, 1849 Jade Ave., possession with intent to distribute marijuana and various traffic warrants.

Demarcus Smith, 22, 1849 Jade Ave., possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and illegal carrying of a firearm with a controlled dangerous substance.

Candice Wilson, 21, 1839 Southpointe Drive, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Marq Woodruff, 24, of 2017 General Lee Ave., possession of stolen firearms.

Also issued a misdemeanor summons on counts of possession of marijuana was Sherale Seals, 25, 8711 Coy Ave.

Rasheedah Belony, 27, 8604 Rush Ave., also was rounded up in the raid and is accused of possessing marijuana, but it was unclear whether she was issued a summons or booked into Parish Prison.