CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Authorities announced Thursday morning that federal and local law enforcement made dozens of arrests in the Charlotte area as part of a massive gang crackdown operation.
The arrests of dozens of United Blood Nation gang members took place early Thursday morning with teams of heavily armed agents and officers conducting the roundup.
Authorities said 83 United Blood Nation members were charged in the 162-page indictment, the largest single indictment in the history of the North Carolina Western District.
Of the 83 people named in the indictments, officials said 27 were already behind bars and 10 are still at large.
On Friday, the FBI said they had taken three more suspected gang members into custody, and are still looking for seven others.
[IMAGES: Dozens of Blood gang members taken into custody]
Seventy-six out of the 83 suspects have been taken into custody, officials said.
The arrest warrants were carried by more than 600 federal, state and local law enforcement officers in Charlotte, Cleveland County, and eastern North Carolina. Arrests were also made in Florida, South Carolina, New York, and Virginia, officials said.
Authorities said the group of United Blood Nation gang members has been indicted on federal racketeering conspiracy charges and charges related to murder, attempted murder, violent assault, narcotics distribution, firearms possession and Hobbs Act robbery.
A number of defendants are also charged with bank fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft related to financial crimes, officials said.
"They kill, rape, intimidate and steal," acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente said during a press conference held Thursday. "We will devastate their networks and starve their revenue sources."
"This indictment represents six dead, nine attempted murders," U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, Jill Westmoreland Rose said during the press conference.
(Click PLAY to watch the full U.S. Attorney's press conference)
The indictment details gang meetings in Charlotte, Shelby and within prisons in New York, where the UBN -- the East Coast version of the Bloods -- first formed.
"We are now under this new administration unleashing all the laws at our disposal to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations," Rose said. "Eighty-three of your leaders, your members, your soldiers have been charged federally."
Channel 9 was also with heavily armed FBI agents as they wrapped up their operation in Cleveland County, and hours after the roundup started, the FBI and CMPD swarmed the drop-off zone at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Federal agents patted down a woman and questioned her before taking her into custody. Officials said she is connected to the case.
The FBI also questioned a second woman, but she was released.
(Click PLAY for RAW VIDEO of the gang roundup)
Channel 9 was also at the federal courthouse in uptown Charlotte and watched as numerous suspects arrived in handcuffs, and there was a noticeable extra police presence.
Family and friends rushed to the courthouse to figure out what was going on.
“He was getting ready for work and they bashed down the door and was like, ‘Come out with your hands up,’” Barbie Viscomi, who is one of the suspect’s girlfriend, said.
"These gang members committed crimes to show they were in control of our communities," Rose said during Thursday's press conference. "This is not the end. We are just getting started."
Federal officials said the Bloods reign of terror was felt in several Charlotte neighborhoods.
There was a murder at a Cook Out restaurant, an armed robbery at a phone store and a shooting on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University all tied to the gang, officials said.
“What we see is they are very transient today. They are in the western part tomorrow. They are in north Charlotte,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney said.
Putney said CMPD was heavily involved in Thursday’s roundup, despite the fact that it was a regional operation.
Putney thinks the roundup will make a dent in the crime rate and sends a message to other wannabe gang members.
"They are always recruiting, so what we’re doing is you take off the top layer. It’s not just CMPD, it’s all our partners and then we go after the second layer," Putney said.
Doctor Shannon Reid, a street gangs expert at UNC Charlotte said the raid on Thursday is only a start to safer communities and doesn't a complete stop to the violence.
"There are also people who need opportunities and if we don't touch on that all. We can't really do anything long-term about this problem," Reid said.
She suggested more resources such as jobs and programs for many of the people who are left behind, and also for those involved in the roundup who may soon return.
"Most of those people, because of the way the criminal justice system works generally are going to be coming back to these communities," Reid said.
More than quarter of suspects from Cleveland County
More than a quarter of the Bloods gang suspects were from Cleveland County.
Heavily armed FBI agents hit the streets in armored trucks, with aerial support from helicopters and drones.
Agents spanned out to several neighborhoods throughout the county with orders to arrest 26 suspected members.
“I actually thought when I walked by it was a training exercise or someone,” neighbor Loren Hitchcock said. “I never thought it would have been involved with gangs."
Sources told Channel 9 one of the biggest players in the Bloods gang in Cleveland County is Quincy Haynes, known as Black Montana.
He has a long criminal history including a conviction for voluntary manslaughter and assault with intent to kill.
He lived for some time near Patterson Springs not far from Joe Watkins.
"You always hear that there is gangs everywhere, but you just don't rationalize it being here with you, right at home,” Watkins said.
Channel 9 asked sheriff's officials why are so many suspected Bloods in rural Cleveland County?
"I wish I could answer that question,” Cleveland County Sheriff’s Officer Maj. Joel Shores said.
But they said the suspects are just as deadly here as anywhere else.
Among them, Dricko Huskey is a convicted felon charged with murder in Shelby last year.
Jonathan Wray is charged with killing a man near Shelby two years ago.
Three people from Cleveland County and one man from Gastonia are charged with killing a man on Chapel Hill last year.
Agents said they mobilized Thursday to break up the organization that supports criminal activity.
"I think Cleveland County is a whole lot safer place today because of these arrests," Shores said.
The sheriff released a statement Thursday saying it will take support from community leaders, civic groups and the faith community to stop the growth of the Bloods gang.
SWAT, FBI descend on east Charlotte condominiums
Several scenes unfolded Thursday morning across Charlotte, and Channel 9 was there with FBI agents, SWAT teams and dozens of officers.
On Spring Lake Drive, near North Sharon Amity Road in east Charlotte, neighbors were awoken by flashing lights just before 5 a.m. at the Watermark Condominiums.
The massive police presence delayed buses for children and stopped many people from leaving for work.
Channel 9 watched as SWAT and CMPD officers swarmed the area. A woman told Eyewitness News that she saw FBI agents take two men into custody from two separate apartments.
The first man came out willingly, but it took hours for the second man to surrender.
Neighbors were told to stay back from the scene as SWAT team members hid in an armored truck, pointing their guns at a third-story apartment.
“They had holes in the SWAT truck and they had the guns pointed up on the third floor from the truck,” she said.
Another witness said she believes young children were inside the units when the men were taken away. That same witness did not want to show her face, but she said her neighbors were frustrated and terrified by what they saw so close to home.
“Until I saw them take the machine guns out and they was putting stuff together to ram the door in,” she said. “They had some robot on top of it rolling around. Then they had a police dog, and he went crazy. He went nuts at the door.”
FBI agents say they were looking for Blood gang member Cedric Surrant.
He's mentioned several times in the 162-page federal indictment for his involvement in meetings and drugs since 2010.
Police said nobody was hurt, but neighbors said they've seen undercover officers at the complex pop in and out for the past week.
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