See more of the story

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said Tuesday a recent batch of drug and gun indictments have interrupted the attempted resurgence of a south Minneapolis street gang that his office first went after nearly a decade ago.

A joint federal and state initiative targeting violent crime in the Twin Cities has so far yielded charges against more than 70 alleged gang members since its launch two years ago. On Tuesday, Luger said his office has turned its focus to the 10z/20z street gang in south Minneapolis — a group that investigators said began attempts to re-emerge late last year after a period of relative dormancy prompted by an earlier round of federal prosecutions during Luger's first term in 2015.

"It immediately became a priority of law enforcement and our office to bring charges quickly to ensure that the 10z/20z could not re-emerge and would not be in a position to increase violence in Minneapolis this summer," Luger said at a news conference announcing the indictments, each filed separately from February up until last week.

According to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in one case last month, the 10z/20z gang is involved in narcotics and firearms trafficking in south Minneapolis, with territory spanning the area bordered to the west and north by Interstate 35W from 18th Street E. to Lake Street. The focal point of the gang's alleged criminal activity is the area around Peavey Park at Franklin and Chicago avenues, where it "regularly sells controlled substances."

Luger's office, working with the FBI and MPD, began prosecuting members of the gang in 2015, targeting "leaders, shooters, and dangerous drug traffickers within the gang, and substantially diminished the gang's influence and standing in south Minneapolis."

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara said Tuesday that gang investigators from his department began a joint investigation with the FBI last fall based on intelligence that the gang was attempting to re-emerge and resume drug and gun trafficking. O'Hara said officers working on the 10 cases linked to the gang recovered 13 firearms – including one outfitted with a machine gun conversion device, or "switch" – and "significant quantities of cash, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl."

"They are among some of the worst of the worst," O'Hara said.

The following alleged 10z/20z gang members have been indicted solely on illegal firearm possession charges: Don Buddie Austin, 32; Albert William Bratton, 28; Billy Ismael Hawkins, 34; and Joshua Benjamin Scott, 37. Austin Joevon Toy, 22, is being charged with possession of a machine gun.

Toraus Marquis Eason, 44, is being charged with possessing a firearm as a felon, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, cocaine and MDMA, and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Jaquan Lavelle Jackson, 29, is charged with possessing a firearm as a felon, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Bernard Augusta Mack, 29, is charged with possession of a firearm as a felon, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Armond Quinton Wright, 33, is charged with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine, and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Paul Antonio Early, 32, has been charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Messages were left seeking comment from attorneys listed for the men.

FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Leah Greeves said Tuesday's announcement of the new charges underscored "the importance of long-standing partnerships that are essential to successful investigations and disruptions of criminal networks."

"Gang violence jeopardizes the safety and wellbeing of our neighborhoods, and the FBI remains steadfast in its commitment to combating such threats," Greeves said.

O'Hara, back in the city after attending the Connecticut funeral of slain Minneapolis officer Jamal Mitchell a day earlier, described Mitchell's May 30 ambush killing as a "stark reminder of the callous individuals who heartlessly prey on some of the most vulnerable populations of our city and our law enforcement officers." Mitchell was killed in an area considered to be 10z/20z territory, though no links have publicly been made between the gang and the events leading up to his killing.

Previous federal gang cases charged amid Luger's violent crime strategy have relied on complex conspiracy charges such as the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, but Luger said Tuesday that in this case "the decision was made jointly to get this gang off the streets as quickly as possible."

He refrained from commenting on the roles or hierarchy represented by those charged "until we complete our investigation."