Mar. 21, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz on Tuesday, March 21, announced the indictment on 33 suspected gang members for murder and gun violence charges. In addition to the indictments being made, 34 firearms were confiscated from the defendants, including two ghost guns.
Katz made the announcement from her Kew Gardens office Tuesday morning.
According to Katz, the 151-count indictment is one of the largest gang takedowns in the office’s history. Among the 33 charged, five are facing murder charges in connection with two crimes: the 2019 shooting death of 14-year-old Aamir Griffin, who was killed while playing basketball at the Baisley Park Houses after being mistaken for a rival gang member, and the killing of Sean Vance on New Year’s Eve in 2020 after one of the gangs thought he was involved in a non-fatal shooting of one of their own earlier that day. The three-year investigation culminated with this indictment.
“Whether it is a 14-year-old like Aamir Griffin playing basketball or a schoolteacher walking his dog or a mother running out to buy milk for her children — all innocent bystanders in past shootings in the borough of Queens County — we have seen law-abiding New Yorkers peacefully going about their business being killed by mindless gang violence,” DA Katz said. “We must do absolutely everything we can to get illegal firearms off of our streets. It is why the work of the NYPD’s Gun Violence Suppression Unit and my Violent Criminal Enterprise Bureau is critically important. I commend them for their outstanding work in bringing these extremely violent and dangerous individuals to justice.”
The blood feud between the southeast Queens street gang Money World and its rivals Local Trap Stars and Never Forget Loyalty is believed to be at the center of the conspiracy, according to Katz. A slashing in April 2019 set off the gang war before violence escalated following the fatal shooting of Griffin in October 2019. Since then, there have been over 22 shootings, including the fatal shooting of Vance. Adding fuel to the fire of the feud has been members of each gang bragging about their exploits and taunting each other on social media and through rap videos.
Katz noted that 18 of the 33 indicted have pulled the trigger on their gun, leading to murder and attempted murder charges on these individuals in the indictment. The defendants range in age from as young as 17 to as old as 40.
“The people of New York City are safer because of the meticulous investigation and sustained effort of the NYPD officers and Queens prosecutors involved in this important case,” Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. “Our pledge is always to achieve justice for crime victims and to hold violent gang members who undermine public safety accountable for their crimes. We will work every day to protect every city neighborhood and I want to thank the Queens district attorney’s office and everyone else whose dedication to justice and public safety is reflected in today’s indictment.”
During one of the more recent incidents of gang violence last January, a Money World member shot at Local Trap Stars members. In addition to hitting one of the Local Trap Stars, the Money World member also struck a bystander who was walking to a nearby deli in the shoulder. In August 2022, a gang member opened fire on the Baisley Park Gardens complex, hitting another innocent bystander and just barely missing a 7-year-old.
According to Gun Violence Suppression Division Deputy Chief Jason Savino, this indictment was meant to stop violence in and around Jamaica Estates. He also noted that it extends to Springfield Gardens, Rosedale and Hollis Park.
“These gangs would shoot at their oppositions in the vicinity of densely populated areas,” Savino said. “This includes the parks that our children play in. The gangs on several occasions have shot numerous times into residences, with no regard to who was potentially inside. This was done strictly to send a message of gang dominance. Fired bullets have no names.”
New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams released a statement Tuesday praising the indictment for potentially putting the killers of Griffin and Vance to justice.
“The devastating toll of gun violence disproportionately impacts families and communities, like mine in Southeast Queens, which have experienced far too many losses to bear,” Adams said. “While we must never forget Aamir Griffin, Sean Vance, and countless others whose lives were cut short by violence, it is critical that we also not forget the surviving families and communities and ensuring their recovery and well-being.”
Adams recalled responding to the shooting of Griffin alongside the 113th Precinct, Life Camp and other organizations within the community. Since the shooting death, the community has come together to support Griffin’s family while also uplifting his life.
“Violence leaves behind trauma that, if unaddressed, only perpetuates cycles of harm in our communities,” Adams said. “Apart from the legal process, we must ensure the surviving families of violence have support and access to victim services so they can heal. My priority remains on ensuring victims and their families have what they need to recover. I thank Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz for her work to pursue accountability and for not ignoring the victimization that our public safety systems can too often deprioritize in communities of color. Our community must continue to be focused on rooting out violence and healing trauma to make our families safer, an effort we will undertake with the many community stakeholders.”