By Greg Gelpi
They "purport" to be rappers, but Wednesday the Clayton County District Attorney's Office announced the indictment of 18 gang members in connection with the shooting death of 4-year-old Travon Wilson.
Wilson was shot and killed June 6, 2004, when he and his grandmother were caught in the crossfire of a gang fight between the Southside Mafia and the Hit Squad as he rode his bike through Riverdale Park.
"They purport to be rap groups," Clayton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Bonnie Smith, who was assigned to prosecute the case, said. "I don't think that the evidence will show that much rapping was going on June 6."
Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott announced that the Clayton County grand jury issued 18 indictments from the child's death. Ten are charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and the possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime, and 15 are charged with conspiracy to commit felony murder. In addition, there are two charged with making false statements during a police investigation and one charged with tampering with evidence by hiding one of the weapons used in the shooting.
"Travon and his grandmother just happened to be there and a fight erupted between the two rival gangs," Scott said, describing the park as a normally peaceful place for families and baseball games.
Scott said that her office is working with the Clayton County Sheriff's Office Fugitive Division to locate 13 suspects and that five are already in custody. Deontrez Williams, Christopher Emmanuel, Cori Davis and Xavious Cerdera Taylor had previously been charged in the case, and Gregory Marquay Sutton is in jail on another charge.
More than 50 shots were exchanged between the two gangs, and the Clayton County grand jury sent a message that the particular shot that killed Wilson isn't relevant, Smith said.
"At this point, we know that we have some of the weapons," she said. "We know that we don't have all of the weapons."
Smith said that the announcements are important to show the family and the community that the case was not forgotten. Officials from the district attorney's office, Clayton County Police Department, Riverdale Police Department and the GBI have been working since June to unravel the case.
"There have been many breakthroughs from beginning to end," she said.
Smith said the Hit Squad and Southside Mafia originated from Riverdale and North Clayton high schools and that many gangs in the area have ties to larger cities, such as Los Angeles and Chicago.
"I think it sends a very clear message that we are very serious about gangs in Clayton County," Scott said.
Scott added that law enforcement agencies in Clayton County have been working to "combat" what she called an "increase in the gang activities."
On the day of the shooting Williams and Taylor, believed to be members of the Hit Squad, went to meet the leader of the Southside Mafia, members of a multi-agency task force said in previous testimony.
Williams and Taylor were confronted by about 30 Southside Mafia members who were standing near some woods on the edge of the park. A shoot-out erupted between the two sides and the bullet that killed Wilson is believed to have come from a rifle from the direction of the Southside Mafia members.
The charge of felony murder carries a life sentence, while conspiracy to commit felony murder and tampering with evidence carry sentences of one to 10 years.