Suspected gang youth arrested for drive-by gunplay

by Wes Mayer

Two Newnan men and a juvenile suspected of acting together to perform a gang-related crime were arrested Saturday after they attempted to flee Newnan Police officers.

Around 10:45 p.m., Newnan officers were dispatched to Mitchell Street in reference to a white Nissan Versa with three or four occupants shooting a gun from the vehicle. While en route, Officer Aaron Trusty was told by dispatchers the Versa was last seen traveling on Savannah Street toward Pinson Street. When Trusty began driving down Pinson Street, he met a vehicle matching the description driving in the opposite direction.

According to Trusty, when he passed the Versa, he saw three occupants inside, and the vehicle began speeding off. Trusty then turned around, activated his lights and siren, and attempted to pull over the vehicle, but the Versa quickly turned left onto Jones Street.

Trusty followed the Versa and saw the driver put the vehicle into park before coming to a complete stop. When the vehicle stopped, the driver, later identified as Mark Anthony Bennett Jr., 18, attempted to flee on foot, but Trusty got out of his car with his firearm drawn and ordered the Bennett to get on the ground.

Officers Steven Jones and Donna Barnett arrived at the scene and took the vehicle’s other two occupants, Javonta Ladres Roberts, 20, and the 16-year-old juvenile, into custody. According to Trusty, he noticed two spent shell casings and one live shell lying in plain view on the passenger’s side floorboard. After searching the area, officers found a Beretta handgun on the ground near the intersection of Jones Street and Pinson Street.

After this, all three men were cuffed and transported to the Coweta County Jail.

While investigating Mitchell Street, Officer Chad Wallace found more shell casings near 23 Mitchell St., Trusty said. A witness who lived nearby also told investigators she heard two shots initially, a pause before three more, another pause and then a final two. This led Trusty to believe the three occupants took turns firing the handgun.

According to Investigator Ryan Foles with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, who assisted in the investigation, the three men acted in accordance in essentially a drive-by shooting to incite terror in others – which is what gang members do, he said. According to Trusty, Mitchell Street is known as territory for a gang known as the Bloods. Bennett, Roberts and the juvenile were identified as members of 8-Tre – part of the Crips, a rival gang of the Bloods.

In his report, Trusty wrote, “Just like terrorists, gang members thrive on fear and respect. When disrespected, they use retaliation as a tool to earn it back. The more fear they can instill in a community, the greater the freedom they enjoy.”

Both Foles and Trusty have attended numerous training courses on gang investigations, and Foles is a member of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association.

Bennett and Roberts were both charged with violating the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act and reckless conduct. The juvenile, however, was issued a juvenile complaint form and was turned over to his aunt.



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