Gang members, mostly teens, charged in drive-by shootings

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Seven gang members, mostly teens, are accused of using stolen cars to shoot into occupied homes in Union County, the sheriff said Thursday in a news release.

The sheriff’s office and Monroe Police Department began the investigations in late October 2023.

They said that four shooting incidents were similar.

Gang members would steal a car and use it in a drive-by shooting, firing their weapons into homes that had people inside.

They stole four cars and shot into five homes and a vehicle.

There were no injuries, the Union County Sheriff’s Office stated.

Sheriff Eddie Cathey and Chief Bryan Gillard announced on Thursday that they identified and charged seven people, five of whom were ages 15 to 17 years old.

“The amount of time and effort these investigators have put into these cases has been astounding, and the successful results speak for themselves,” Cathey said. “Throughout the difficulties the ‘Raise the Age’ legislation has caused, my office remains committed to identifying and apprehending any offender whose violent actions indicate their lack of regard or respect for the lives of others. I encourage anyone with additional information about these investigations to share it with our investigators.”

Investigators got secured custody orders through the Department of Juvenile Justice for four of the juvenile offenders. They remain in custody at a local detention center, the sheriff stated.

A fifth juvenile offender, who is not in custody, faces numerous criminal charges.

“Raise the Age” went into effect on Dec. 1, 2019.

The law states that “16 and 17 year old individuals who commit crimes in North Carolina are no longer automatically charged in the adult criminal justice system,” according to the state.

Juveniles involved in serious crimes have been an issue since then, according to law enforcement across the state.

“We’re not out here trying to lock up or to imprison or incarcerate young people who commit small crimes, such as petty larceny or anything like that,” said Lt. James Maye, with the Union County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re talking about violent crimes, attempted murder, car theft, stealing weapons … talking about the extremely violent crimes that put the community at risk and our ability was taken away to apprehend 16 and 17-year-olds immediately and place them separately within our detention center when ‘Raise the Age’ was put in place.”

Tahaj Moser, 18, and Jhony Vergara-Torres, 22, were arrested and are in the Union County Detention Center.

Seven Gang Members Charged During Joint Law Enforcement Operation Over the past several months, law enforcement...

Posted by Union County Sheriff's Office, Monroe, NC on Thursday, February 29, 2024

“Officers and detectives have spent a lot of time, effort, and resources to ensure those responsible for these senseless acts are held accountable,” Gillard said. “I’m proud of the unrelenting work that has been done by my department and the Union County Sheriff’s Office to put all of these individuals in custody. Because of their excellent work and dedication, our communities are safer.”

Investigators charged each of the seven suspects with multiple charges, including but not limited to, attempted murder, shooting into an occupied dwelling, motor vehicle theft, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, evidence tampering, and breaking-and-entering a motor vehicle.

Additional charges are likely.

The investigation is ongoing.

VIDEO: Raise the Age: NC juvenile justice leader wants more funding to prevent teen crime