Authorities on Thursday said a mass shooting at a Little Rock nightclub was precipitated by a rivalry between two gangs — one of which has ties to family members of former Razorback and NFL player Darren McFadden.
Officials also announced that 49 people would be charged with dozens of federal "gun and drug-trafficking crimes," the effort of a joint task force created after the shooting, which took place at the Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock in July.
Cody Hiland, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, reported that 250 agents and officers were involved in an operation that arrested 21 people Thursday morning.
A statement from his office says Bilal Johns Muhammad, the half-brother of McFadden, is a longtime leader in the Real Hustlers Incorporated, one of the rival gangs. That group was formerly known as the Monroe Street Hustlers, authorities said. The other gang was identified as the Wolfe Street Crips.
Two of Muhammad's sons, identified as Bilal Sean Muhammad and Kain Jordan, have also been indicted in the case, according to the office.
Nine people charged in the operation remain fugitives, authorities said. Multiple members of Little Rock's two dominant gangs — the Bloods and the Crips — were arrested Thursday morning, a news release states. Agents also reportedly seized body armor, 21 illegally possessed guns, 9.6 pounds of cocaine, 4 ounces of methamphetamine, 7.2 ounces of cocaine and other drugs as well as about $50,000 in drug proceeds.
The investigation also identified Robert Turpin III as the leader of a drug trafficking organization involving a total of 18 defendants. Turpin was found to be importing pharmaceutical drugs from India for illicit distribution, authorities said.
Chris Alexander, a member of the Wolfe Street Crips and a community activist who has promoted anti-gang and violence programs in Little Rock in the past, was also arrested Thursday on drug and firearm charges.
State government officials applauded Hiland's effort to prosecute more violent crime, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson, at whose request GET Rock — a gang enforcement task force that worked in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Agency on the operation — was formed.
"With these arrests and indictments, we are serving notice that Arkansas will not tolerate the reign of terror by those who traffic in illegal drugs, illegal guns and rule by intimidation," Hutchinson said.
Also on Thursday, Hiland announced an initiative that will enlist the help of attorneys working for various state offices to federally prosecute more gun and drug crimes. These attorneys will be called special assistant United States attorneys and are expected to begin prosecuting federal cases in the coming weeks.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge praised the decision.
"No Arkansan should live in fear and I am confident that prosecuting and removing dangerous criminals from our streets will make our neighborhoods safer," Rutledge said.
Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.