In Providence, one gun's deadly path

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In Providence, one gun's deadly path

Postby newportri » Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:51 am

I am sure some of you already read this article, but I am posting it anyway to show how little knowledge the author (she writes a lot of anti gun articles in Projo) has about Rhode Island gun laws as well as what the real issues are. I usually don't paste articles, but since Projo limits how many times you can read their web edition for free I am posting the whole article.
http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150419/NEWS/150419331&Nocache=1&cachebust=VHTV
In Providence, one gun's deadly path
Forensic tests at the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory linked this gun to several shooting incidents -- including a triple homicide -- that occurred over a five-month period in 2012.
PROVIDENCE — Two fathers. A mother. A big brother. An only child.
Four of them were killed; the fifth one was critically injured. What they have in common is the same gun.
During a span of at least five months in 2012, this 9mm Glock 17, with an attached red laser, was in the hands of teenage boys and young men who passed it around and used it to wreak havoc throughout Providence.
Forensic tests at the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory linked this gun to the shooting in May 2012 of Gary Ellerbe, who nearly died in what a state prosecutor described as “nothing more than a game of human blood-sport.”
The crime lab linked the gun to the murder in June 2012 of David Hollis Sr., who was fatally shot while out for an afternoon walk with his children, a friend and their dogs.
The lab also linked the gun to the triple murder in July 2012 of Shemeeka Barros, her boyfriend, Michael Martin, and their friend Damien Colon inside an apartment where three small children were sleeping.
The gun is linked to at least two other shootings — one in June 2012 in which bullets were sprayed into the apartment of a witness cooperating with police investigating Ellerbe’s shooting. The second, a drive-by shooting in October 2012, injured a woman sitting on her front porch.
Four young men were convicted in the murders of Barros, Martin and Colon and are serving lengthy sentences at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston. One of them is also serving time for Ellerbe’s shooting.
Hollis’ murder remains unsolved.
Community gun
The Glock was one of 130 firearms that Providence police seized in crimes in 2012 — a high number, but not the most the police have seized in a year.
It was purchased legally in December 2006 by a 57-year-old veteran living in Warwick. When police eventually traced the gun back to him, he told them it was taken from his house in 2007 or 2008 and he never reported it stolen.
The gun ended up on the street. It's not known how many people used the gun before it was seized.
What made this particular gun so dangerous was that it was a “community gun,” shared by a loose group of people. As the police arrested one suspected shooter after another, the gun remained accessible to others.
The people who handled this gun included a 26-year-old man and two 16-year-old boys with criminal records, all from the Wanskuck neighborhood. At least one had ties to a violent gang in South Providence.
There is no way to tally the devastation wrought by this gun.
As then-Assistant Attorney General Randall White remarked last December, when one of the teenagers was sentenced to four life sentences for murdering three people: “Who knows what untold stories that gun holds?”
A different culture
This pistol, with its 17-round magazine, was intended for serious use. On its website, Glock describes the gun as the most widely used law enforcement pistol worldwide, easy to use and quick, “just what you need in high-pressure situations.”
This pistol was entering a different culture, where the term “putting in work” means “protecting your neighborhood … beating someone up, shooting somebody,” an inmate who knew one of the teens later explained to a state prosecutor.
The office of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and his staff wouldn't talk about the gun for this article. Neither would Providence Police Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr., whose detectives investigated the crimes and eventually recovered the gun. Both cited a pending appeal at the Rhode Island Supreme Court, filed in December by the lawyer for a defendant convicted in the triple homicide.
However, the gun’s path — from May to October 2012 — can be traced through police reports, court documents, testimony and transcripts of interviews with witnesses.
The gun was carried throughout Providence, into the neighborhoods of Wanskuck and Valley, finally recovered under a backyard woodpile in Elmwood.
The Glock 17 came into the hands of Timothy R. DeBritto, nicknamed “Beeper,” whose blue state handgun certification was in a frame in the apartment on Middle Drive where he stayed with his girlfriend and their four children.
Handed off by DeBritto, it was used by others to kill two of his childhood friends, as well as the father of a girl he’d mentored in an after-school program.
DeBritto is now serving 40 years at the ACI for his role in the triple homicide and 30 years for shooting and wounding Ellerbe. He declined comment through a spokeswoman at the Department of Corrections.
His lawyer, arguing for leniency, told the Superior Court that DeBritto had volunteered at the North End Community Learning Collaborative and made “meaningful progress” toward a GED. But that was years ago.
Ran for his life
By the spring of 2012, DeBritto was a high school dropout who had fathered six children with different women and hadn’t held a job in years.
At 26, DeBritto was the oldest in the group of young men known to have handled the gun. Court documents describe a YouTube video of DeBritto and a friend, nicknamed “Space,” cruising around Providence and fooling around with the Glock.
One of DeBritto’s friends was 16-year-old Russell Burrell. The two had gotten matching tattoos that said “Faith.”
On May 20, 2012, Space was driving DeBritto’s Oldsmobile around the Arbor Glen apartments in Wanskuck. DeBritto was in the passenger seat and Burrell was in the back.
Gary Ellerbe, 35, happened to drive by and see them. He stopped and asked DeBritto if they could talk about the problems between their girlfriends.
DeBritto agreed and as Ellerbe got out of his car, DeBritto pulled out the gun and opened fire.
Ellerbe said later that he screamed: “Why are you shooting me?” But DeBritto told him to run and kept shooting — 17 times. Ellerbe testified later that he saw Burrell, whom he’d known all the teen’s life, grinning as he ran.
Ellerbe was hit by seven bullets, which tore apart his intestines. Surgery saved his life, although he needed a colostomy bag for months. Even as he recovered, Ellerbe remained in pain.
Latoya Brisbon, Ellerbe’s girlfriend, immediately cooperated with the police, who were with her when she confronted DeBritto in a phone call, asking why he shot Ellerbe.
“That’s my kids’ father. … You couldn’t fight?” asked Brisbon, according to a recording of the call.
Worried for her safety, she and her children moved out temporarily.
A week and a half after the shooting, Brisbon found a bullet hole in their front door at 47 Shiloh St.
On June 23, Brisbon and her three children — ages 1, 3, and 6 — were sleeping when someone opened fire on the residence again. Bullets went through the front window and into the kitchen, missing Brisbon and the children. A dozen 9mm spent casings, from the Glock, were found outside.
Brisbon — and the police — got the message: she and her children were in danger because she was cooperating. The police referred her to witness protection.
Four days later, DeBritto was arrested on a warrant in Ellerbe’s shooting. He was released on bail within two days.
“A bad combination”
As summer approached in 2012, Providence was hot with gunfire.
By mid-June, there had been more shootings, homicides and shots fired than the previous year. The police chief called an emergency meeting of the Providence Police Advisory Board to discuss how to stop the violence.
“Sometimes, there’s no talking to these kids,” Chief Hugh T. Clements told the gathering of city officials, ministers and community leaders. “They get their hands on a gun, and they take action.”
Most of the action was happening in the Wanskuck neighborhood, an area in the city’s north end where most of the people handling the Glock were living.
The boys and young men were on both sides of gunfire.
At just 16, Quandell Husband was already ducking bullets. Although he lived in Wanskuck, he was part of the Comstock street gang based in South Providence, which was in a deadly feud with another South Providence gang, the YNIC.
Husband’s 21-year-old cousin Devon Young was shot and killed in Washington Park that June. Another cousin Donald Young was serving two life sentences for murdering a rival gang member in 2009 in South Providence.
Inmates told a state prosecutor that Husband bragged about using guns and said that he never went to parties without one.
A friend told Providence police about an incident when Husband was doing push-ups and a loaded 9mm pistol fell out of his basketball shorts.
Husband had a criminal record as a juvenile and had been released early in 2012 from the Rhode Island Training School. So had his good friend Russell Burrell.
That year, Burrell fathered his second child with Husband’s half-sister. Burrell and Husband were close, though their case workers were trying to keep them separated.
Husband was on home confinement at his family’s apartment at 641 Douglas Ave., and Burrell, who lived nearby at 96 Veazie St., had been released from the Rhode Island Training School on May 12, 2012, according to court records. As Husband’s juvenile probation officer wrote in case notes that June, the two boys “are a bad combination.”
After Husband and a friend dodged gunfire outside his house in early June, the probation officer called for emergency meetings with his family to come up with a safety plan.
Husband didn’t care, the officer wrote in his case notes, which later became part of the court record. The boy was rude to a Family Court judge, and his mother skipped a meeting because “it was too hot and she didn’t have time,” the officer noted.
Husband denied being in a gang, although police intelligence said otherwise, the officer wrote. He added that Husband “feels he is invincible.”
After the meetings and court hearing intended to protect Husband, the probation officer received a text-to-voice-mail message from Husband addressing him by his first name: “We are going to get you. Comstock $”
“Someone shot my dad!”
The Glock was in someone’s hands again on June 21, 2012, when David Hollis Sr. walked with his children and their friend back from a neighborhood park.
Hollis, 38, worked the night shift at Walmart in Providence unloading trucks. His longtime girlfriend worked days, as they both supported their blended family of five, living in an apartment upstairs from her mother in a multifamily building on Veazie Street.
That afternoon, Hollis’ girlfriend was braiding their 3-year-old daughter’s hair in the apartment. The girl's grandmother was sitting on a bed in her first-floor apartment. They all heard the shots from outside. And then the screams: “Someone shot my dad!”
A gunman in Hollis’ driveway at 623 Douglas Ave. had fired on Hollis and his children as they waited to cross the street. All of them scattered to safety, and as Hollis looked back, the gunman shot him in the head.
The bullets missed the children. Another whizzed into the grandmother’s apartment, striking the wall over her head.
Hollis suffered devastating injuries but didn’t die right away. He was removed from life support the next day.
The police found 14 9mm shell casings in the driveway, later matched to the same Glock that was used to shoot Ellerbe.
No one has been charged in Hollis’ murder.
Triple homicide
On a sultry evening of July 30, 2012, DeBritto was at his girlfriend’s apartment with Husband and Burrell, listening to the plan cooked up by 19-year-old Donovann Hall to rob a local drug dealer.
Hall was part of the group that handled the gun, even though they sometimes turned on him. He would come up with schemes to rob others, because he wanted to fit in, an inmate who knew Husband later told prosecutors.
Court testimony revealed that Hall’s plan was to rob Michael Martin, a 23-year-old living with his girlfriend, Shemeeka Barros, 22, and her young daughters in Arbor Glen on General Street. Martin was selling marijuana, and Hall thought he’d be an easy mark.
DeBritto gave his Glock to Burrell, who walked with Husband and Hall to the apartment where Martin and Barros lived, according to court testimony.
The couple were home that night. Her girls, ages 3 and 5, and her 6-year-old brother were sleeping. Their friend Damien Colon, 22, had stopped by after work.
Hall later testified that Martin let them in when he knocked on the door. The teenage boys rushed Martin and Colon into the kitchen, waving the gun.
Suddenly, Burrell shot Martin and Colon. Barros, who was sleeping on the couch, woke up screaming, and Burrell went into the living room and shot her multiple times.
A medical examiner later testified about the bullets pulled from their bodies. Seven from Martin’s buttock and back. An expandable bullet lodged inside Colon. Bullets found in Barros’ chest, left sleeve and a fragment taken from her right arm. Barros was shot at close range in her left temple.
Hall ran out alone when the shooting started, according to testimony. Witnesses testified about seeing Husband and Burrell later fleeing together.
Within a week of the murders, warrants were issued and Providence police arrested Burrell and Husband on Aug. 9. Burrell told the police that he left the gun in Husband’s basement at 641 Douglas Ave. They found bullets, but no gun.
The net swung wider and the police arrested Hall and DeBritto months later. Husband and Burrell, still 16, were waived out of Family Court to face multiple murder charges.
Hall, Burrell and DeBritto all pleaded guilty. Hall and Burrell testified against Husband, who went to trial. Burrell is serving four consecutive life sentences. Hall received three life sentences, plus 10 years. DeBritto received 40 years.
Husband was found guilty on July 28, 2014, almost two years to the date of the triple homicide. He is appealing his sentence of six life terms.
But, in the words of the lead detective, Robert Washburn, nobody wins in a homicide case. The families of Shemeeka Barros, Damien Colon and Michael Martin suffered. Barros’ mother took in her grandchildren. Colon’s death left an empty space in his family of younger siblings and foster children.
“He’s my only child. He was my life,” Debra Martin, the mother of Michael Martin, said at the time. “And now he’s gone.”
Hidden in woodpile
It would take another shooting before the police found the gun.
In the wee hours of Oct. 2, 2012, two men in a silver sedan drove up to a house at 28-30 Wisdom Ave. One man aimed a pistol with a red laser at people on the front porch, firing repeatedly, hitting a woman in her foot and a parked car.
Officers found 10 9mm casings in the street. An hour later, the police stopped a car resembling the one used in the drive-by shooting. The four people inside included two Comstock gang members. Detective Sgt. William Dwyer and Detective Daniel O’Connell questioned the two men and, according to court records, “encouraged them” to help the police find the gun used in the Wisdom Avenue shooting.
Word got around. Two days later, the two detectives got an anonymous tip that led them to a pile of wood behind 105 Atlantic Ave., in the Elmwood neighborhood.
They found the 9mm Glock, with its red laser sight, wrapped in a gray shirt.
Tracing the gun
Providence police BCI detectives test-fired the gun and sent the casings to the gun crime lab at the University of Rhode Island. The police also asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace the gun.
This pistol was one of the 305 firearms that Rhode Island law enforcement asked the ATF to trace in 2012. Those firearms included weapons seized after suicides, homicides and other crimes, or, like this gun, simply found.
The ATF traced the gun to its original owner. The statistics in a report of traces in Rhode Island in 2012 show that this type of gun is fairly common.
More than half of the guns traced in 2012 were pistols, and the most common caliber was 9mm, according to the ATF’s tracing system report for Rhode Island. Most of the guns were found in Providence.
In March 2013, five months after the gun was found, a swab was taken from the trigger and grip and sent to the state Department of Health forensics lab for DNA testing.
That April, the gun was also sent to the crime lab at the University of Rhode Island to compare it with evidence in other shootings. Firearms examiners linked it with the shooting of Ellerbe and the murders of David Hollis, Shemeeka Barros, Damien Colon and Michael Martin.
The police say the same Glock was linked to the shots fired into Brisbon’s apartment in June and the drive-by shooting on Wisdom Avenue in October.
Devastation, compassion
Forensics aside, David Hollis’ family knew about the community gun.
They knew Timothy DeBritto. Years before he was linked to the gun, he volunteered in an after-school program working with Hollis’ oldest daughter when she was small. She loved DeBritto and looked up to him, says her grandmother Hameedah Abdul-Hasib.
The family had heard that DeBritto had changed over time and become violent. They heard he had a gun.
They heard that his gun was used to kill Hollis and the three people in Arbor Glen.
“Word on the street was that gun was involved,” Abdul-Hasib said recently. “The street started talking to us and telling us, and we realized, oh, this is just one bad gun out there.”
The gun used to murder Hollis left his fiancée struggling to support their five children. The youngest girl, whose hair was being braided the day her father died, may not remember him. The gun made Raja, now 6, a statistic, her grandmother said — a young black child, growing up without a father, in a low-income community.
“When does the cycle break?” Abdul-Hasib asked.
She also knew another victim: Shemeeka Barros, whose mother, Gemelya, is a friend in their Muslim community and is raising her daughter’s two young girls.
Abdul-Hasib also knows Husband’s grandmother, understands that she is also suffering. She has compassion for all of the families affected by that one gun.
The gun, she said, “came into my family’s lives with a devastating effect. Whether he [DeBritto] pulled the trigger or not, it was him who purchased the gun. … He affected my whole family, whether he knows it or not.”
"It still haunts me"
From her bedroom window, Lina Abdul-Hasib can see the place where her fiancé, Hollis, lay dying.
He had been her best friend for 10 years. She has struggled since his murder.
She returned to work two weeks after his death, trying to keep going for her children. She eventually collapsed with grief and lost her job. She stopped eating. She couldn’t sleep. She didn’t leave her home for a year and a half.
A man wearing Hollis’ favorite cologne, Joop, got on the bus one day, moving her to tears. She misses Hollis so much. And he has missed so much, she says.
“Almost three years later, it still haunts me,” said Abdul-Hasib. “Everyone told me it’ll get better. That’s not true. It doesn’t get easier. You just come up with different defense mechanisms.”
Her brother moved into an apartment next door and has become a father figure to the children. Her mother helps. She got a job last fall with the CVS corporate offices and is able to support her family again.
She’s a mother, who also must be a father. She sees how the murder has changed her children — how angry and confused her oldest daughter became after seeing her father die.
“No one deserves to die the way he did, in front of his children,” said Abdul-Hasib.
She wants to believe that DeBritto, who had been like a part of their family, wouldn’t have allowed someone else to use his gun if he’d known the Hollis family was a target.
The gunman had shot wildly. He could have killed her oldest daughter and Hollis’ son, their friend, or her mother sitting in her bedroom. “I could have lost my whole family,” Abdul-Hasib said.
If she could speak to the killer, she wouldn’t ask why; no answer would be good enough.
She’d just want him to know about the man he took away and the irreversible damage to her family.
She’s angry. One gun. Immeasurable loss.
amilkovi@providencejournal.com
....the right to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Check out our website here:
http://www.rifol.org/
newportri
 
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Re: In Providence, one gun's deadly path

Postby shovel1966 » Fri Apr 24, 2015 3:06 am

Interesting article. It's too bad that the story was written as if it was the Glock's fault all those people ended up dead. If they wouldn't not have had that Glock 17, none of those murders would have happened. Glad to hear of the guilty pleas and the convictions though.
shovel1966
 
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