NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– New Hanover County’s top brass assembled in the sheriff’s quarters Thursday morning to announce the arrest of three gang members, each charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree attempted murder, and two counts of felony conspiracy.
Omonte Bell, 28, Dyrell Green, 21, and Raquel Adams, 24, were all charged and apprehended Wednesday afternoon.
The three are being prosecuted for killing two individuals and attempting to kill a third in Ogden on July 24.
One of the victims, Koredreese R. Tyson, 29, was reportedly the area’s highest-ranking Gangster Disciples member. Last week, his still-fresh grave was desecrated. Bri-yanna Williams, 21, was also killed in the early-morning incident in Providence, an upscale neighborhood off Middle Sound Loop.
Previously unnamed, M’Kailia Walker, 21, was shot in the chest and called 911. She told the operator the homeowner, George Taylor III (the chief operating officer of TRU Colors brewery, where Tyson was employed) was downstairs. Tyson had been staying in Taylor’s home, as he was reportedly having difficulty finding a place to live with a felony conviction.
TRU Colors employs active rival gang members with the mission of economically empowering low-income individuals and equipping them with useful professional skills.
Adams, a member of United Blood Nation, was already in custody in the New Hanover County jail for a federal probation violation, arrested on Aug. 10 for weapons and guns charges. The U.S. Marshals Service and Charlotte Police Department assisted in apprehending Bell in Charlotte and transporting him to Wilmington. Green was arrested in Wilmington.
None were given bonds and all have been appointed representation from the capital defender’s office, according to Samantha Dooies, assistant to the district attorney. Each defendant has a prior lengthy criminal history, state records show, having done time for drug-related offenses committed in New Hanover County.
Flanked by large portraits of the deceased on their right and supersized mugshots of the suspects on their left, the region’s most powerful elected and appointed leaders addressed the recent uptick in gang violence and encouraged witnesses to continue coming forward. After their remarks, they swiftly exited the room, declining to take questions.
Witnesses come forward
The death penalty is under consideration, but it’s too early to say either way, District Attorney Ben David said at the press conference. “[H]opefully you feel more safe now today, than maybe three weeks ago, when these three individuals were still out of custody,” he said.
North Carolina hasn’t executed any prisoners on death row in nearly 15 years. Jurors can only sentence an individual to death if a first-degree murder included one of 11 aggravating circumstances. One such circumstance is the crime was committed by a convicted felon, which the three defendants meet.
Because aggravating circumstances were present, district court judge Russell Davis agreed with the state’s request for no bond to be issued, argued by assistant district attorney Bennett Temple. The defendants’ first appearances occurred as the press conference was underway.
The decision whether to seek the death penalty will come after a review committee of five prosecutors examines all evidence collected. David did not clarify if there are additional suspects but said additional charges are being considered.
In his two decades as a prosecutor in Wilmington, David said he’s witnessed the cycle of violence and vigilante justice, where “today’s victim is tomorrow’s defendant.”
“Let us do that job of getting victims their voice in a courtroom. Let us speak for the dead. Let us be the ones,” he said. “Trust in the process that is down on Third and Market Street at that courthouse rather than trying to take matters into your own hand.”
At the previous press conference, when the sheriff and David appeared alongside the families of Tyson and Williams, authorities announced a $3,000 reward for tips that would lead to an arrest. As that conference wrapped up, David would not answer a question posed by a WECT reporter asking whether TRU Colors was to blame for the violence.
This time around, unprompted, David implicitly condemned the brewery’s business model. It’s simply not possible to renounce violence without disavowing gang affiliation, he said –– “[i]t’s like trying to separate the water from the wet.”
“The truth is, people are being targeted for their status of being in validated gangs, not just as individuals anymore,” he said. “So even if you are sincere in your reform and wanting to get out of that violent lifestyle, without renouncing the gang and violence at the same time, we believe that violence will continue, leading not only to potential harm to yourself, but innocent people who might be caught in the crossfire in a war of their own making.”
He urged mothers and grandmothers listening to the streamed conference to tell their loved ones to get out of the gang lifestyle. “Anything else is just not going to work,” he said.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo acknowledged the string of disturbing violent crimes that followed the Providence murders –– ”in the aftermath of this, I think that we saw almost a terrorism going on in our community.”
Less than a week later, one 50-year-old woman was killed and a 48-year-old woman was injured in a daylight drive-by shooting; neither victim was gang-affiliated. Several shootings have also taken place in the interim. Authorities have not officially acknowledged the events were interconnected.
The leaders thanked witnesses who contributed tips anonymously and who personally met with law enforcement officers. Sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer said while the text-a-tip program played a “pivotal role” in securing charges, the evidence isn’t overwhelmingly reliant on witness testimony: “There was a lot of good detective work.”
Wilmington police chief Donny Wiliams asked the community to provide intel on activities brewing before crimes are committed. “Let us know. Text us. I’m begging you for your help.”
Speaking from a teleprompter, Sheriff Ed McMahon credited various agencies involved, including the FBI, ATF, the New Bern Police Department, and the Craven County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is a great example of when we work together, we’re gonna get bad guys off our streets, and we’re gonna make our community safer,” he said.
View more pictures from the press conference below:
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